Happy Birthday, Penguin – You’re Looking Well For 75!

Penguin Publishers – you’ve gotta give them props. As they reach their 75th anniversary this week, they’re still the movers and shakers of the publishing world, with a vigour we don’t see in many publishers half their age! Their Aussie contingent flies the flag well – I’ve grown up on Penguin books, and it’s nice to know that some things haven’t changed. Whenever I see that cute little penguin symbol on the binder, I know the book’s going to be an interesting and inexpensive read that’ll probably end up being a classic one day, if it isn’t already.

So why a penguin, Penguin?
Allen Lane, founder of Penguin, wanted a symbol for his new business that was “dignified but flippant”. The woman behind the man, his secretary, suggested a penguin, and so publishing history was made, with another employee sent straight to London Zoo to commence sketching.

Alison Flood from The Guardian has written a crowd-pleasing article for Penguin’s 75th, quoting straight from avid Penguin books collector Steve Hare’s mouth:

“We’re an educational charity, not a bunch of sad anoraks,” said Hare. “[We’re] not simply about collecting, but for anyone interested in graphic design, publishing history, illustration, and the joys and pleasures of the physical book.”

And so while Penguin Publishers have well and truly jumped on the e-book gypsy caravan, in these times of uncertainty it’s nice to know that people still see the value of a good hardcover book. The Penguin Publishers main website has long been a fascination of mine: whoever they have working there employing designers is s-t-y-l-i-s-h and knows some opportunistic art when they see it. Many of us swooned at the sight of Coralie Bickford’s baroque beauties, but I especially love the project they’re working on at the moment – the Penguin RED series, where 50% of profits from books sold go to AIDS relief in Africa. Covers are adorned in scarlet, crimson, black and white, with an emphasis on typography design – a memorable quote from each classic skips, shouts, dances about from the confines of the bookshelf. Some are already available, with more in the works to be released later on this year. Aren’t they eye-catching?

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So many happy returns of the day, Penguin – I hope you get everything you wish for this week. And here’s to another 75 – even if it is in e-book form!