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Penguin Archives

For those wanting to research Penguins further there are a number of Archives that hold items and papers of interest. The list below details a few of these.

Special Collections at the University of Bristol hold the most comprehensive collection of Penguin files with over 2,300 archive boxes and 1km of material. The records can be browsed online where there is a helpful guide to searching in the top bar. As well as the Penguin Books archive, Allen Lane's personal collection of signed Penguin Books and thousands of Penguin Books up to the 2000s, there are also archives relating to Hamish Hamilton Books, Rough Guide Travel Guides and Allen Lane Penguin Press. In addition there is a small amount of material relating to other publishing houses such as Frederick Warne, Insel-Bücherei and others.

Special Collections at the University of Reading hold records of Ladybird Books with a collection of 700 boxes of original artwork, proofs and some documentation from the 1940s to the 1990s, including examples of the work of notable artists such as C.F. Tunnicliffe, Rowland Hilder and Allen Seaby. There is also a Ladybird Gallery at the Museum of Rural Life which features highlights from the collection. This link takes you to the relevant website page and you can also click through to find how to use the service.

The Archives of Random House Publishers are also held at Reading and there are materials which complement the holdings at the University of Bristol Special Collections.

Special Collections at Oxford Brookes University were the recipients of Steve Hare's collection and the cataloguing for a web page is a work in progress. In the meantime, and e-mail to the Library would be the place to start your enquiry.

Special Collections at the University of Exeter hold a number of records that are of general interest to Penguin readers. In particular Charles Causley, but also highlighted are the archives of Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Henry Williamson and A L Rowse.

University of Special Collections at Stirling University hold the Mitchell Penguin Collection.

University of Edinburgh hold a bequest that includes a large number of Penguin books along with Zodiac, Albatross and others.

Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections include the Schmoller Collection of Decorated Papers.

Casting further afield to Australia

The National Library of Australia, Canberra houses the Overton Collection. John Overton (1920–1991) was born in Germany and came to England with his father in 1927. He grew up at Sevenoaks, Kent. He was briefly interned at the beginning of the War and on his release he joined Penguin Books at Harmondsworth. His reasons for placing his collection in an Australian library were that there were already Penguin collections in British libraries, he had happy memories of his time in Australia and his daughter had settled in Sydney. Of his first 2000 main series, 68 were missing from the collection!

In 1981 the State Library of New South Wales purchased the basis of a Penguin collection from C. C. Kohler, an antiquarian book dealer of Dorking, Surrey. Since then, other titles have been added to fill in gaps as they come to hand. The collection now consists of over 3000 paperback books published by Penguin between 1935 and 1979. Many of its titles are first edition Penguins. Included are both fiction and non-fiction books in the Penguin, Pelican and Penguin Specials series. The collection embodies a complete generation’s culture and thought when the printed word was the primary means of communication. The books in the collection are stored in date order of issue, following the series number allocated by the publisher. In 2017 ABC News strolled the stacks and published this article.

and the USA

The Bancroft Library is the primary special collections library at the University of California, Berkeley. It houses the Donald and Katharine Foley Collection of Penguin Books 1935-1965. Always a lover of books, Foley took an active interest in the university library, College of Environmental Design Library, and the University of California Press. In 1998 Foley and his wife Katharine donated their 2,354-item collection illustrating the history and evolution of Penguin publishing.

If your research brings you to the conclusion that you would like to consult any of these archives, the next stage is to contact them direct. Each of the Special Collections listed above has a contact us link and the most relevant are listed below:

Bristol Special Collections
Reading Special Collections
Exeter Special Collections
Oxford Brookes Special Collections

This article can be updated. If you have information or Archives that you feel should be included please send information and the relevant link to [email protected]