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As a reader, it is often the case that you gravitate to a writer for a variety of deeply personal reasons. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a love for the subject, or an affection for the talent of the writer; other times it’s a sense of connection; a shared background, or a feeling of understanding. Now and again, what you want and sometimes need, is to read about your own experiences — unwrapped and deconstructed, analysed, and pieced back together again — interpreted by someone who gets it; someone who shares something with you. Like a gender.

AN Devers, via backerkit. Image: Jo Emmerson.

How history views and values writers, though, is a much different story. 

Value — either in esteem or monetarily — is, historically, most readily and most liberally applied to male writers. (And, it should be said, to a very specific stock of male writer.) But the beauty of history is that we’re living it, right now — and so our ability to shape it and change it and pave a better, more diverse future is real, and happening. And it’s happening because of people like AN Devers.

AN Devers is an arts journalist with a passion for rare books, and, specifically, for rare works written by women. What started for Devers as the collecting of secondhand paperbacks and the occasional signed first edition has evolved into an incredibly exciting new business and creative community, The Second Shelf.

The Second Shelf: A Quarterly of Rare Books & Words by Women, via twitter / @secondshelfbks.

The Second Shelf is a bookstore, bricks-and-mortar and soon online, and quarterly publication focused on rare books, first editions, manuscripts and other written works by and about women. The point of it all is to highlight and raise up women writers, to bestow on them the recognition and value of which they are so deserving, and to make strides towards closing that omnipresent but hopefully soon receding gender-gap. The point is equality. 

The namesake journal, The Second Shelf: A Quarterly of Rare Books and Words by Women, is off to a roaring start — particularly considering it was only ever meant to be a rare book catalogue. It is that still, but as well, the first edition of the quarterly features writing by, among others, Lauren Groff and Joanna Walsh, having come together as more of a “fashion magazine for books.” A Literary Vogue, as it were.

What Devers is passionate about is female-focused literature and writing, and in building up women — either as writers or as readers of. Her whole business plan is built around her desire to bring to the fore the too-often unappreciated brilliance of our women cultural revolutionaries, and in doing so, she is becoming one herself. 

A selection of The Second Shelf's first editions poetry stock, via twitter / @secondshelfbks.

If you’d like to learn more about The Second Shelf (and you should, do), you can find all kinds of useful information on the website — where you can sign up for a newsletter — on the Kickstarter, and the socials (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). 

You can also just Google “AN Devers” — which I heartily recommend that you do — and get lost for a little while in the brilliance and contagious passion of this bookwoman, and bask in her generous advice about how to become a conservator, great or small, yourself.
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