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The Second Shelf highlights gender disparity in literary canon

The bookshop has rare works by the likes of Jane Austen and Alice Walker.

A.N. Devers is the founder of The Second

A.N. Devers is the founder of The Second Shelf. Photo Credit: Jo Emmerson

A.N. Devers wants you to feminize your bookshelf.

As the founder of The Second Shelf, a year-old bookshop and brand-new literary quarterly of the same name, Devers hopes to put the spotlight on writing by women.

“I’m interested in gender and equality in literary history, and how women have been forgotten or left out of literary history,” says Devers, a longtime Brooklynite currently living in London.

A reason for that, she says, is because men dominate the rare book trade — and they tend to buy books by men.

Devers will be back in town for this weekend’s Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair at Brooklyn Expo Center, with a talk Sunday addressing gender inequality in the literary canon.

She will also have pieces from her collection for sale. Highlights include a signed copy of Alice Walker’s “You Can’t Keep a Good Women Down” (about $250), a collection of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” that was owned by Austen’s friend, Martha Lloyd (about $22,000), and a skirt once owned by Sylvia Plath (about $16,250).

Devers figures she has nearly 3,000 books in stock, found primarily at secondhand bookstores, as well as rare book fairs and through rare and antiquarian bookstores. Of those, about 600 will be available online when The Second Shelf’s e-commerce shop launches next month.

“Even a novice collector can make an impact,” Devers says. “And it’s exciting and fun.”

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