Penguin Books celebrates its 75th birthday today, and The Guardian has a short account of its history:
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 (orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime), with works by Ernest Hemingway, André Maurois and Christie herself part of the launch list.
The books originally cost as much as a pack of cigarettes (no longer a benchmark for bargains) and were intended as disposable convenience items. Their simple look had charm, however, and readers proved unwilling to throw the books away. Penguin designs have featured everything from Paul Klee paintings to tattoos, and a few years back, graphic designer Phil Baines published a history of Penguin covers.
Today, the Penguin Collectors Society is 40 years old and has 500 members. Trustee Steve Hare told The Guardian, “We’re an educational charity, not a bunch of sad anoraks…. [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.”
We’re not sure what “sad anorak” means, but we do get the joys and pleasures.