We study twentieth-century book design, particularly Penguin Books, and help to preserve and conserve Penguin Books and material relating to Penguin, and ensure the ready availability of that material for present and future research.
Actually collecting Penguin Books is not, of course, a prerequisite for membership. Any enthusiast for the good book design, typography, illustration and writing with which Penguin Books have been associated since 1935 will find something of interest here.
Annual General Meeting 2014
This will be held in the autumn in Sedbergh, Cumbria. Full details of dates and venues will be posted as soon as they are known.
Annual General Meeting 2013
The Society’s 2013 AGM was held at the Duke Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Surrey, on the weekend of Saturday 7 September. This meeting celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Society, the first meeting having been held some 200 metres away. Over 50 members and their partners attended and were rewarded with a fascinating trio of reminiscences: from David Teale about working in Penguin in the 1960s; from Tanya Schmoller about how she met Allen Lane when he was on a business trip to Uruguay and subsequently embarked on a six-month wartime journey to England to work for Penguin; and from Russell Edwards recalling the earlier days of the Society. The day concluded with a fine PCS Dinner in Don Fernando’s Spanish restaurant.
On the Friday before, members had been entertained to a special visit to the exhibition of former Penguin designer Jerry Cinamon’s work at the ICA; to a visit to the original home of The Bodley Head in Vigo Street, London, where Allen Lane started his publishing career and which he reacquired in 1965 for Allen Lane the Penguin Press – now a showroom for a firm supplying luxury leather interior decoration; and to a meal at the steak house which has replaced the former Barcelona restaurant in Beak Street, favourite haunt of Allen Lane and his senior editors.
Abram Games and Penguin Books
Naomi Games has written a detailed account of how her father Abram was invited by Allen Lane and Hans Schmoller in 1956 to select and commission an illustrator for each of a number of full-colour covers for Penguin fiction. This was an experiment by Penguin which ran for a mere 10 months before the company decided to revert to largely typographic covers.
Abram Games, who had established his reputation when he had been chief designer for the Festival of Britain in 1951, designed seven cover illustrations in the series himself (and another later cover) while ten other artists were commissioned to produce a further 26 illustrations, giving a total of 33 books in all. The book provides an account of how Games commissioned many of his friends, with details of their covers, and a full account of Penguin’s involvement. There are 37 illustrations in the text plus 33 full-page images showing all titles in the series.
The Buildings of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales: A Sixtieth Anniversary Catalogue of the Pevsner Architectural Guides
This book represents the culmination of substantial detective work by James Mackay who has been comparing editions, checking stocklists, delving into the Bristol archive, and climbing the stacks of the Pearson archive at Rugby for quite a few years now, and the resultant book provides a detailed follow-up to the earlier work of Bridget Cherry in classifying the Buildings of England series. The details of every edition, placed in a chronological structure, provide an opportunity to see how Penguin’s publishing policy developed, at times planned but often in a noticeably haphazard way. The book includes all volumes published to date by both Penguin and Yale University Press, the series having been transferred to the latter in 2002.
The book also contains an extract from Susie Harries’s recent biography, Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life and a Society ‘first’ – a specially translated ‘Afterword’ to Pevsner’s earliest publication, Leipziger Barock. In this piece Ernst Ullmann, formerly Director of the Institute for Art History at the University of Leipzig, considered the place of Pevsner in the evolution of art history in Germany and summarised Pevsner’s later work. He concluded by assessing Pevsner’s contribution to the understanding and appreciation of his native city. Leipziger Barock itself has not been translated and this Afterword has been specially translated for the Society by Catherine Mackay.
The book is in the same format as the current volumes, 215 × 117 mm, and has 96 pages including numerous illustrations in colour
Penguin Papers No.1: William Shakespeare in Penguin Books
This is the first of a new series intended to provide relatively modest but still well researched material on any aspect of Penguin. Martin Yates has certainly fulfilled this brief and provided a very readable survey of works (and early computer software) written by or about Shakespeare, published by Penguin, as well as lists of the various Shakespeare series. This first Penguin Paper is in three main parts – text, tables and images:
1) A narrative description of the books, with thumbnail images of the main series. It begins with the plays series, which include the ‘non dramatic poetry’, and then describes the many ways Shakespeare’s works have been collected, selected and written about.
2) Reference lists of the series, the plays, the Shakespeare studies and the main contributors.
3) An ‘image library’ giving a representative selection of the very varied cover art.
B format, 198 × 129 mm, 56 pages with numerous illustrations in colour
Annual General Meeting 2012
The Society’s AGM was held in Chester and across the Welsh border at Hawarden, on the weekend of Saturday 20 October 2012. The programme started on Friday afternoon with a most engaging tour of Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, the largest private library in Britain. The AGM itself was held in the hall of The Queen’s School, Chester. After the formal business, some 50 members and their partners were entertained to a fascinating talk by John Hitchin, formerly Retail and Publicity Director of Penguin, on ‘How Penguin Marketing Began’. The annual Penguin dinner was held at the Gladstone Library and the whole weekend was adjudged a great success.