Monday August 2nd, 2010

Penguin Turns 75

Penguin 75 ann logoLast Friday marked the 75th anniversary of Penguin Books. Now a worldwide publisher of diverse titles in diverse formats, the press started in Britain as the brainchild of Allen Lane. As Phil Baines writes in the beautiful Penguin by Design: “The idea of publishing cheap, good-looking reprints of fiction and non-fiction in paperback was Allen’s first and foremost, though it was refined and added to by his brothers, Richard and John, also directors [at The Bodley Head, a publishing firm]. Allen was inspired by the dearth of cheap reading material at Exeter train station when returning from a weekend’s visit to Agatha Christie.”

The books’ minimalist but striking designs, featuring the now iconic logo of a cartoon penguin, helped establish the brand. The rest is history. Some people, like those in the Penguin Collectors Society, now fiercely seek out those original titles. The Guardian recently featured one such collector, Steve Hare, who owns nearly 3,000 Penguin paperbacks. There are several places online to find collections of the covers, like here and here.

You can learn more about the publisher’s plans to celebrate the anniversary here; more about the first 10 books in the Penguin series here; and a time line of the publisher’s history here. In just a few minutes, I’ll be posting about the first-ever giveaway on The Second Pass, to do my small part to commemorate the 75 years.