80 years ago this summer, in 1935, Penguin came into being, with the publication of the very first Penguin paperbacks. They were colour coded (orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime) and cost just sixpence, the same price as a packet of cigarettes. The way the public thought about books changed forever – the paperback revolution had begun.
The idea for Penguin had come about the previous year when, returning from visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, Allen Lane (then a director of The Bodley Head) couldn’t find anything decent to read at Exeter train station, except magazines and reprints of Victorian novels. He decided that good quality contemporary fiction should be made available at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops – as was the way in 1934 – but also in railway stations, tobacconists and chain stores.
For his new business, Lane also decided he needed a ‘dignified but flippant’ symbol. His secretary suggested a Penguin and another employee was sent to London Zoo to make some sketches. Today, Penguin is still one of the most recognisable brands in the world.
We want to celebrate the fact that we’ve spent the 80 years since we began creating, innovating and publishing a wealth of incredible books by a list of hugely talented authors – from DH Lawrence, Morrissey, Nancy Mitford and Marian Keyes to Jamie Oliver, Stephen Fry, Sebastian Faulks and F.Scott Fitzgerald.
So we’re kicking off a summer long Penguin party, featuring exciting events, competitions and other booky wonders that we can’t wait to share with you. Sign up to our email and say hello to us on Twitter to be the very first to hear about them.
May we take this opportunity to say thanks for reading – and here’s to the next chapter!