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The main series do not generally contain any illustrations, except for the lovely (full-colour) endpapers based on fabrics or prints. Oh, and all the books in the main series come with a bookmark based on the endpapers, with a blurb of the book printed on the back. The cheaper paperbacks don't have these.
About shipping costs: I don't find these outrageous (I live in South Africa): if you buy 3 or more books from the main series, they cost £10 instead of £12 with £5 per book shipping costs (send airmail, so they arrive quickly). I tend to buy three at a time and thus pay £45. $8 shipping costs may sound a lot, but the NYRB Classics, for instance, now charge $23 (yes!!!) for the first book and $6 thereafter (consequently I now think twice before ordering from them), while the LoA also charges about $8 per volume (but less if you buy more). A sizeable part of my income is spent on shipping books.... :( But I love these Persephone Books too much to do without them.
I am sorry if this did not come over all too clearly in my effusive post, but the postage to the rest of the world for a Persephone Book is £5, about US $8, which as I was trying to explain is rather reasonable compared to, for example, the NYRB Classics which charges US $23 for the first book.
Yes, I rather like the NYRB Classics because they publish many titles of foreign literature, especially from Eastern Europe and Russia in English translation not easily available elsewhere. And I like to broaden my reading horizons. :) But since they've hiked their shipping costs so much for people outside of the USA, I am rather peeved and may henceforth order via Amazon in the UK rather than directly.
I have never checked, but perhaps it is possible to order Persephone titles via Amazon in the USA? At least the cheaper paperback series.