Everything you need to know about London’s new feminist bookshop

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Moya Crockett
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Plus, two more women-focused bookshops you can visit today. 

There’s no shortage of brilliant bookshops in London. From Gay’s the Word in King’s Cross, which sells queer fiction and non-fiction, to the first edition-focused Goldsboro Books near Leicester Square, there are dozens of independent stores across the city catering to almost every conceivable interest.

Now, a new bookshop is set to open in Soho that will make the capital’s literary scene even brighter. The shop, which is the brainchild of arts journalist and rare books dealer AN Devers, will focus exclusively on books by women – including rare books, modern first editions, rediscovered works by female writers and “future classics”.

Devers is the founder of The Second Shelf, an online platform for rare books, first editions and manuscripts written by and about female authors. She originally had the idea for the digital business in 2014, after she noticed that rare books by women were often priced much lower than those by men at book fairs.

This observation was recently backed up by a major study that found that titles by female authors are sold, on average, at less than half the price of those written by men.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign raising £33,000, The Second Shelf will launch online in September. The IRL bookshop, which has space for 3,000 books and literary events, is due to open its doors in October. Devers has not yet revealed the exact location, but it is expected to be announced soon.

Speaking to The Bookseller, Devers said she hoped The Second Shelf project would preserve the legacy of female authors at risk of being forgotten.

“It may seem like a small action but we need to say that women’s first editions are important and should get a place on my bookshelf. It’s an important step,” she said.

“To help protect these writers’ legacies, we should collect them. It’s a fun and affordable thing to do.”

Like the idea of browsing shelves full of books by female authors? There aren’t many shops in the UK that focus exclusively or even predominantly on writing by women, but there are two others in London already – Persephone Books and The Feminist Library Bookshop.

Persephone Books 

An independent publishing house and a bricks-and-mortar bookshop, Persephone Books reprints forgotten fiction and non-fiction from the mid-20th century. Very occasionally, they publish the work of male authors – but the overwhelming focus is on women writers such as EM Delafield, Diana Athill and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Each book is reprinted with a dove-grey cover and beautiful endpaper inspired by vintage fabrics, with new forewords by writers including Jilly Cooper and Elaine Showalter.

The shop, in a Grade II-listed building in Holborn, is small and elegant, with shelves filled with novels, cookbooks, those famous soft grey covers. Spend a happy hour browsing, before heading to the nearby Conduit Coffee House to read your new book over a latte.

Open 10am-6pm Monday-Friday, 11am-5pm Saturday, 12-4pm Sunday. 

The Feminist Library Bookshop

If you’re interested in how feminist literature developed from the Sixties onwards, a trip to The Feminist Library in Lambeth is essential. Set up in 1975, when the Women’s Liberation Movement was at its peak, it’s a fascinating archive of intersectional feminist writing from the second half of the 20th century.

Visitors can read books in the library, or head to the attached shop, which sells essential new and used fiction and non-fiction titles by writers including Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Chopin and Virginia Woolf. There’s also coffee and cake.

Open 12-5pm, Saturdays only.

For the best feminist libraries and museums across the UK, from Glasgow to Manchester, click here

Main image: Getty Images


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Moya Crockett

Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.