Alongside much bubble bath, many pairs of socks, and some obligatory chocolate coins, I received two very pleasing gifts this Christmas. The first was a teapot; a replacement for the ill fated blue spotty one that met it’s sticky end somewhere in Reed Hall gardens during the Alice in Wonderland shoot for Flights and Fantasy. (This new shiny one, I hasten to add, will most definately not be accompanying me on any future Razz shoots.)
The second was a set of ‘Postcards from Penguin‘ – One hundred iconic book covers in a box. Of all the Penguin book designs, I personally have a soft spot for the orange covers. With hopes of one day having my own library (or perhaps, more realistically, a shelf), filled with those three bold stripes, I’ve started my own collection of the design classic. I’ve begun scouring charity shops and book sales for them and as far as I’m concerned, the crumblier they are the better.
“over seventy years of quintessentially British design in one box.”
Over the summer, I did a couple of weeks work experience for Pearson Group, the publishing house which owns Penguin. As part of my placement, I was shown the Pearson distribution centre where, to my delight, there is an archive of every Penguin book ever published – everything from the original paperbacks published in 1935 to the new (RED) Penguin classics.
The set of postcards I was given this Christmas is a hand picked selection of the most loved of the Penguin covers. The collection is a celebration of the book designs that have defined the literary world and graced our shops’ shelves over the last century. Ever since the creation of the first Penguin paperbacks 75 years ago, their jackets have been a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture, creativity, and literary history. Showcasing influential writers and designers, Penguin covers have reflected the changing face of British design over the decades.
In fact, the publishing giant has recently published a range of decade inspired book covers. The Penguin Decades collection consists of five ground-breaking, generation-defining novels from the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. Each cover has been re-designed by a distinguished artist (the 70’s set by fashion icon Zandra Rhodes).
Pleasingly, the inside of my postcards’ box informed me that, all those years ago, Allen Lane decided to found Penguin Books whilst waiting for a train back to London from our own beloved Exeter (admittedly because he was disappointed with the poor selection of reading material on offer, but still!) Next time you are standing at St David’s station faced with a gruelling train journey home be thankful that nowadays, because in 1935 Allen Lane launched the now internationally loved brand that to this day provides us with affordable and beautifully designed paperbacks, unlike him, we’ve got plenty of good books to read!
So, although my poor primary school teacher spent years telling me not to, I’m going to continue judging these books by their postcard-worthy covers. I think it is safe to assume that the care and quality that goes into Penguin’s book covers continues past the front cover.
Published on http://www.razzmag.wordpress.com on December 29th 2010.