Today is the 80 year Anniversary of Penguin Books.
Penguin was launched on 30 July 1935 after publisher Allen Lane, travelling home from a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, was appalled by the lack of cheap but good quality contemporary fiction available at Exeter station. He came up with the concept of the Penguin paperback, bringing out a host of the colour-coded titles that summer.
The name Penguin was selected because it embodied “a sort of dignified flippancy” – being friendly, happy, not too scholarly and appealing to everyone. Edward Young, a production assistant, was sent to London Zoo to sketch penguins – the Penguin logo was born. On Tuesday 30th July 1935, the first ten Penguin titles hit the bookshops in London – bright colourful books that immediately drew the attention of the public: orange for fiction, dark blue for biography, green for crime, red for plays, cerise for travel, yellow for miscellanea. Orders rolled in, and outlets such as Woolworths helped to spread their fame wide. These inaugural titles were:
- Ariel by André Maurois (Dark blue)
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway (Orange)
- Poets Pub by Eric Linklater (Orange)
- Madame Claire by Susan Ertz (Orange)
- Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers (Green)
- The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Green)
- Twenty-five by Beverley Nichols (Dark Blue)
- William by E.H. Young (Orange)
- Gone to Earth by Mary Webb (Orange)
- Carnival by Compton Mackenzie (Orange)
These books, together with their successors, established a new, permanent trend in publishing that has developed into what we have today.
Did you know?
It was under Allen Lane that Penguin published DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, until then this book was banned in the United Kingdom.
For those wanting a little more fun – pop over to this page which has a free Penguin book cover template for Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop – Enjoy! 🙂