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Allen Lane and the Flight of the Penguins: Thoughts on a Special Collection Florence Margaret Paisey

Allen Lane, a far-sighted, enterprising member of The Bodley Head publishing family, launched Penguin books in 1935. It was a bold move. Englands economy had yet to stabilize following WWI, the Great Depression had created vast unemployment, wages had been cut, and The Bodley Head firm was in near receivership. Paperback books were commonly sold; most featured smutty, sensational storiesnot meaningful literature. Socio-cultural norms suggested that the privileged would not be interested in a paperback and the impecunious would have neither the funds nor the interest for thoughtful prose. Yet, Allen Lane surmised that despite financial hardships of the Great Depression there was a need and a market for inexpensive, quality paperbacks. On a hunch and a shoestring, he and two brothers introduced Penguin paperbacks under The Bodley Head imprint. Allen Lane asked Edward Young, a junior executive, to sketch the Penguin emblem and devise a cover design. Young settled on a simple, formulaic layout for covers, bands of color to signify genres of books and Gills San Serif Bold typeface. With ten titles selected to reprint and a calculated price of sixpence per Penguin, the firm issued the first ten titles. These titles included diverse works by quality, established writers. Lanes Penguins hit the market with a bang. Within 18 months the Penguin imprint had reprinted nearly 100 titles and sold millions. Lanes judgment had borne out his risk. Youngs formulaic cover design and its Penguin emblem became identified with quality, inexpensive, and desirable books. The following year Bodley Head went into voluntary receivership and Penguin emerged as a separate firm.

4 By 1937, talk of expanding the house to include an educational series turned to action. A related but new educational imprint and emblem aroseThe Pelicans. Pelicans were non-fiction; they aimed directly at education and discoveries of the mind. Some of the first Pelicans published included authoritative works that served serious general readers as well as students in university programs. While Pelican sales boomed, political unrest in Europe loomed. Lane addressed the matter with yet another venturethe firm commissioned original books. These works focused on topics related to the threat of warcurrent eventsand became the series Penguin Specials. The series started with titles such as Lorimers What Hitler Wants and Tabouiss Blackmail or War. Penguin Specials grew to include more than 160 titles and sold millions of copies. Indeed, Penguins achievement in sales had been so successful prior to WWII that wartime supply rations were ample for the company to start four more subsidiary Penguin series: King Penguins, Puffin Picture Books, Puffin Story Books, and Penguin Modern Painters. Clearly, the enterprise that Lane had gambled on less than a decade before had brought about publishing history with major achievements in graphic design and typography. It is this history, from many perspectives, that interests me. Penguins history is publishing history, but it is also typographic history, design history, social history, and intellectual history. In bringing quality literature, inexpensively, to the public, Lane transformed the ethos of a people. Prior to Lane, the blue-collar populace had little access to quality literature. With Lanes foresight, the exclusivity of owning a quality title diminished. This condition implicitly acknowledged the intelligence and rights of a people.

5 Numerous criteria have defined special collections through the centuries. Pollard emphasizes unity of theme in a collection together with rarity or scarcity of an edition or copy. He also states that significant interest in an aspect of a title is required for the work to be valued on the market. This point is one I would question and consider carefully. I believe there are fine authors (or printers, illustrators, elements) that are yet to be discovered. Of course this is true for contemporary works, but I believe it is also true for older titles, particularly if the books were scantly issued. I also think that looking at a collection with a fresh perspective can reveal aspects that had hitherto been overlooked. Three indispensable features in a special collection are the unifying theme, the notion of rarity, and interest in or exemplar features of a title. Given these conditions, ones subjective response always plays into the dynamics of selectionevery collector has his or her preferences; they are as broad as personal tastes and personalities. Apart from unity, rarity, and interest, I dont believe there is one definitive measure of a special collection. This, of course, is part of what makes collecting books so intriguing. What will one stumble across in rereading an older text, reexamining structure, or researching a printer? Such issues are unpredictable and challenging in unquantifiable ways. In this sense, collecting is an intellectual struggle, an adventure, and personal expression. Penguin Books have flourished over the decades. I believe there are four fundamental reasons for their successinnovative design, a recognizable style, quality content, and a ripe market. These aspects represent a historical era; they characterize the socio-cultural currents that Allen Lane tapped with astute vision.

6 Penguins were innovative, and this pioneering work in publishing marked a break with the past, ushering in a new age for a new readership. Early Penguins, in particular, are eminently collectible at affordable prices. I think certain current reprints and original works will be deemed collectible, particularly as they relate to graphic design and typography, yet the numbers in which current copies are issued do not bode well for scarcity. However, if one collects and arranges on the basis of Penguins innovations in graphic design and typography, one comes away with a cohesive progression of development in modern graphic design history. Such a collection would also touch on how Penguin employed previous techniques and applied them in creating new approaches to cover design and typography. Penguin collections centered on graphic design and typography would not require collecting all Penguins; it would require exemplar copies of each graphic artist or typographer, in fine condition. As an example, Penguin Books issued the King Penguin series in 1939. It was Penguins first hardback edition and ran to 76 titles. Noted scholars such as Gombrich (art), Carrington (art), and Fairbanks (typography) contributed to the content. The distinguished designer Nicholas Pevsner edited all but the first few issues during the 1940s and the noted printer, R.B. Fishenden, supervised printing. Following Pevsner, Hans Schmoller became Art Director. King Penguins are an elegant series and intended for collection. The format is a pocket size duodecimo and each has about 33 plates. Their cover design and illustration were carried out by noted designers and illustrators of the day such as Paxton Chadwick, Edward Bawden, Barbara Jones, and Clark Hutton among

7 others. It is a lovely series and, at the moment, quite affordable to collect, if one is willing to scout around for each title. Some titles are more available than others and prices reflect that. This series would be one Penguin collection and representative of the firms early excellence in innovation, book design, typography, and quality content. In collecting the King Penguin series, Id look for 1st editions in fine condition. In 1949, King Penguins were issued with a dust wrapper, so beginning with 1949 Id add that to criteria. Given this specific criterion prices vary considerably. On the ABAA exchange, a 1st ed. King Penguin in fine condition runs about $65.00. Abebooks offers two searching options: the general and the rare books search. This is where one really needs to see the book. A general search prices King Penguins for as little as $1.00 to $10.00 a title in very good condition. However, if one uses the rare book search, prices start at nearly $200.00 in fine condition. The complete series is available at Abebooks for about $2,700.00the condition, edition, and elements of each title are not clear. The King Penguin series is one that I would enjoy immensely. Its aesthetic charm pleases me and the topics covered in the series are particularly interesting. The complete series would be affordable, if one is willing to do the legwork and ferret out titles. I also feel that there are scholars in England who own and enjoy this series, but will eventually put the books on the marketeither in used book stores, house sales, or through dealers. I think it will be feasible to obtain the series, in fine condition, affordably and well within ten years. As a second and related third collection, I would build on the previously introduced idea of Penguin collections that cluster around the themes of graphic

8 design history and typology. Baines Book, Penguin by Design, as well as the sequel, Penguin by Illustrators, would be good introductions. They would also be necessary titles. However, Penguin design history began with a junior executive in productionnot a professional designer or printer. Lane and Youngs early design decisions were ground-breaking, yet once Lane established the Penguin firm, professional designers, illustrators, and typographers were commissioned or hired on staff. I believe in order to fully understand the direction and significance of Penguins design direction, its important to look at graphic design and typographic history, particularly in the 20th century. So, while a special collection that maps titles representative of Penguins graphic design and typography is core, contextualizing developments within a historical perspective is essential for a research collection. Graphic design and typography for works on paper are not new; the perspective in approaching the subject and products can be new. I dont think Ive seen a comprehensive Penguin collection, intended for graphic design study, despite the exhibitions, books, and websites extolling Penguins design merits. A collection that traces a firms innovative design and typographic history requires titles that are representative works in typology, graphic design, and illustration. There is also something new. And Penguin, with its prescience, is addressing it. This is the digital frontier. Jim Stoddart, current art director for Penguin Books, has stated that graphic design and typography are more important in the digital realm than in the physical. I find this a fascinating notion. Penguin has just issued the title Twitterature, and, as an example of Stoddarts notion, Richard Rutter is

9 adapting Bringhursts classic work on typographic designwith the adaptation on the web. Sound Penguin collections featuring design and typographic history would include the rationale of those designers whose work differentiated Penguins. This is the notice me market factor that initially drew attention. However, without quality content, a charismatic aesthetic, and a populace ready for change, Penguin would simply be a footnote in publishing history, rather than a phenomenonand what a phenomenon!

10 Penguin Graphic Design Collection and Typology Collection Scope The scope of a Penguin design collection (with a few examples of titles) would include topics that provide a historical perspective, but focus heavily on ideas and people whose work impacted Penguin most significantly. History of Typography History of Printing History of Graphic Design Modern Graphic Design History of Illustrationtechniques Penguin exemplar titles, representing design history Penguin designers writings: Birdsalls Notes on Book Design, Tschicholds Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering, and more Titles about Penguin and its history, including all Penguin Collectors Society publicationsFifty Penguin Years, Frederiksens The Typology of Penguins, Hares Father & Son, and Penguin by Designers etc Bibliographies of Penguin booksGrahams Penguin in Print: A Bibliography, Penguin Classics: An Annotated Bibliography, etc. Typography for e-books Digital design Exhibition catalogues--Seven Hundred Penguins and design awards Biographies of Allen Lane and associates Any original ephemera or manuscripts

A few of the books on the above topics along with some prices from Abebooks or ABAA include: Chappell & Bringhursts Short History of the Printed Word (Abebooks 2nd ed. $40.00) Blacks Typefaces for Desktop Publishing (Oak Knoll: $15.00) Bringhursts Elements of Typographic Style (Abebooks: $40.00 +) Holleleys Digital Book Design (Abebooks: $40.00) Hutchings The Western Heritage of Type Design (Oak Knoll: $45.00) Tschicholds The New Typography (ABAA: 1st English ed. 49.95) Doubledays Jan Tschichold, Designer: The Penguin Years (ABAA: 1st ed. $39.95) Friedl, Friedrichs et al Typo: When Who How (Abebooks: New Book, edition not noted $120.00) Spencers Pioneers of Modern Typography (Abebooks: 1st ed. $200.00) Gills Essay on Typography (Abebooks: limited 1st ed. of 500 copies $800.00 first to be set in Gill's Joanna Roman typeface. Printed by Hague and Gill on watermarked Hague and Gill handmade paper; Association item with a personal inscription

11 Meggs History of Graphic Design (ABAA: $70.00) Hults The Print in the Western World (ABAA: 2nd printing $125.00) Blumenthals Art of the Printed Book (ABAA: 1st ed. $50.00) Schmollers Two Titans: Mardersteig and Tschichold (ABAA 1st ed. $35.00) Godfreys Bibliographic: 100 Classic Graphic Design Books (Abebooks 1st ed. $40.00) Hoods From Gutenberg to Open Type (Abebooks 1st ed. $25.00) Luptons Thinking with Type (Abebooks 1st ed. $25.00) Pflughaupts Letter by Letter (Abebooks 1st ed. $25.00) Lewis Penguin Special (Abebooks 1st ed. $25.00) Hutner & Kellys A Century for the Century (ABAA 1st ed. $45.00)

And, finally, on the point of developing this collection (good sellers, fine condition, 1st editions) on $2,500.00 a year for ten years, I would say absolutely, with one provisoit will take a lot of assiduous work. A sample worksheet for collections on Penguin graphic design and typography, including thought that influenced its development, follows. These works are merely examples and in no way approach the extent or research that such collections would require.