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People who visit the shop often ask about the posters. A few are for sale at £10 each but most of them are part of the Persephone collection i.e. we have acquired them over the years and, luckily, had them framed, or they crumple into nothing. We have both original and reproduction (rather as we have fresh flowers next to silk flowers from Bloom) and they came from many sources eg. Rennie’s, Onslows, Neil Jennings, Manning, The London Transport MuseumThe Imperial War Museum. (Until Christmas we also have an original  ‘The Seven Rules of Health’ for sale: it’s on Instagram here.) This week on the Post – five of the posters hanging in the shop. First of all, the one that faces you as you come in. It’s by Abram Games and belonged to an ancestor who had kept it in a drawer since the war: a  true, unwrecked original.

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And the last chapter is Wording: why Bloomsbury is the home of words. We have T S Eliot in his office at Faber, all the famous novelists who lived in Bloomsbury (though Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain are left out of the book, as is Dorothy Sayers) and then on p. 159, just before Alexander Herzen and opposite a photograph of the Victoria Press (‘which Emily Faithfull founded at 9 Coram Street in 1860; staffing the company entirely with women, she used the press to produce periodicals that fought explicitly for women’s rights’) is a mention of us! The text says that we tap into Bloomsbury’s long relationship with feminism and that we are ‘a small but extremely innovative house.’ A very pleasing conclusion to an excellent book!

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Chapter 5 of Bloomsbury called ‘Timing’ is about clocks, stations, museums, history, all melded in a slightly crazy but intensely stimulating way in one chapter. Take this sentence:  ‘Through the mixture of industrial and bohemian temporalities sustained by the area, Bloomsbury has evolved a fascinatingly conflicted relation to the present moment.’  It’s not quite clear what this means, but the gist is: Bloomsbury is where’s it’s at! The next sentence is : ‘It has also been the part of London most given to probing the past and speculating about the future.’ Hear, hear, it so is! The photograph is of the Euston Station Hotel (1839), alas demolished in 1963 to build the present, horrible Euston Station. The photograph was taken in 1925. Next time you have to go to Euston Station: grit your teeth and despair.

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Chapter 4 of Bloomsbury is our favourite – it deliciously connects railings round squares with railing as in protesting (a link which had never occurred to us before). The book has a different but very similar photograph of railings being demolished in 1941. This one is taken from here and is accompanied by a lament by GB Stern (which is not about Bloomsbury specifically which is why it is not in the book). After the lament for the railings there is a superb quotation from George Orwell railing against the imagery of railings – their removal was ‘a democratic gesture. Many more green spaces were open to the public.’ The chapter then morphs into the suffragettes (tying themselves to railings) and Mary Wollstonecraft, and one of our very favourite novels, Isabella Ford’s On the Threshold (1895), which depicts Bloomsbury streets brimming with political potential, both for feminist and socialist causes. And the chapter reminds us that Emmeline Pankhurst lived in Russell Square and Millicent Fawcett at 2 Gower Street; finally there is ‘one of the most important events of the suffragette movement’, the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison at St George’s, Bloomsbury. Brilliant stuff.

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The second chapter of Bloomsbury is called Aspiring, which is a clever linking of  architecture (spires), secularism and religious idealism. The third chapter is Connecting, as in ‘only connect’ (meat and drink to us Forsterians), thus it covers St Pancras Station Hotel, the north side of Brunswick Square (now demolished, or bombed, but it is where Forster lodged for a while), the boarding house culture (and especially a 1919 play called Tilly of Bloomsbury, filmed three times including this version in 1931, we shall have a ‘rehearsed reading’ of the play in the shop next year), our author Mrs Oliphant‘s A House in Bloomsbury (1894), the pre-Raphaelites, and finally, of course, ‘the Bloomsbury Group’. All these disparate yet connected Bloomsbury elements are skilfully linked in one short chapter!

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There is an excellent new book about Bloomsbury by Matthew Ingleby which we sell it in the shop (for £10). It is eccentric, in a good way: the six chapters have verbs as their titles and the (abundant) material and insights are sometimes slightly arbitrarily squeezed into one chapter rather than another. But overall there is an unusual sense of joyful re-assessment and intelligent appreciation of ‘our’ corner of London. In fact the book made us intensely proud to be part of it. Chapter 1 is called Budding, as in trees and flowers and therefore garden squares and greenery generally. The first sentence quotes Amy Levy (author of Reuben Sachs) who was ‘living in Bloomsbury, at 7 Endsleigh Gardens [where we have tried for so long to get her a Blue Plaque] when she wrote the poem ‘A London Plane-Tree’ (1889). It attends to the presence of nature in the midst of the bustling metropolis.’ Ingeleby then tells us that Amy Levy was part of a community of women intellectuals who met in the reading room of the British Museum, goes on to say that Bloomsbury is a surprisingly green neighbourhood and then says that it is ‘green’ in another sense – it is packed with young people. Then he writes about childhood and the Foundling Hospital, then about Dickens and the area’s garden squares, Mrs Dalloway (the first line mentions flowers) and Charlotte Mew’s great poem ‘The Trees are Down’ ‘written after she saw, near her house in Gordon Street, the plane trees opposite Euston station cut down in order to widen the main road’. (Tragically, the trees that remained are being cut down as we speak to make way for HS2.) Thus even in the first chapter there would have been material for a whole week of Posts! The photograph is of the Brunswick Square Plane, planted by the Georgians when the original square was built and, miraculously, allowed by two centuries of gardeners to grow to its natural shape.

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And finally, an orange flower. The simplicity of this will keep us calm this morning, as we scramble to send the Biannually and Catalogue to the printer. After that it will be cups of tea all round and a good shuffle through autumn leaves . Tea and leaves – not so different from Trichy 150 years ago.

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There is something primitive about these paintings, obviously, but yet something curiously sophisticated. (And we mustn’t forget that blue painting was rare because the paint was so much more expensive.)

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The charming simplicity of these flower paintings is rather inspirational, not that they could ever be imitated but in the sense that one day soon we shall trek off to the library and find a book about the entire genre. For the moment – it is hours on the iMac for us Persephone girls because the new Biannually and Catalogue goes  to the printer on Friday.

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Flower painting is a whole genre of its own, and a fascinating one. These paintings are simply catalogued by the V & A as ‘one of eighteen drawings of flowers’, place of origin: Trichinopoly, date 1860. So presumably a Victorian traveller bought them at Trichy (a marvellous place for a holiday!), brought them back to the UK and, realising their excellence, left them to the V & A.

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