This year marks 80 years since Penguin Books printed their first paperbacks and changed the way readers thought about books forever.
Penguin Books was first set up in 1935 by Allen Lane, who was then a director at the Bodley Head imprint. The story goes that he was coming back from a trip to visit Agatha Christie in Devon. Whilst waiting on the platform at Exeter station he checked out the bookstall, and the only things he could find to read were magazines or reprints of old Victorian novels. He was appalled at the selection on offer and decided to set up an imprint that would make good quality books available to all, at an affordable price, and on sale not just in bookshops, but at outlets such as tobacconists and chain stores.
Apparently Allen Lane’s secretary came up with the idea of Penguin for the imprint’s name, and an artist was sent to London Zoo to make some sketches. And so the Penguin was born, and is probably now the most recognised brand in publishing.
Penguin have also designed a clever and interactive website. You move a Penguin around a wheel to discover all 80 titles, plus quotes from the books. How totally different the world of publishing is today from the world in which Allen Lane first launched Penguin books!
My bookshelves are full of both Penguin books and the children’s imprint Puffin books. Where would the world of books be without Allen Lane’s amazing foresight? Happy birthday, Penguin, and I ‘d love to know what the next 80 years will bring!
Do you have any Penguin books on your shelves? Can you think of any Penguin covers you love? If you have any questions or comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!