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Penguin editor-in-chief W E Williams once wondered whether there was enough classical iterature in the world for the Penguin Classics series to go on expanding. At that time, it numbered sixty books. Now, just over sixty years later, there are more than twenty times as many.

It is amost impossible to imagine reading them all. But Henry Eliot, Creative Editor of the Penguin Classics, can help. He has written a reader’s companion to the series, to help us find our way through everything that it offers. The Penguin Classics Book is a compendium, a guide and an invitation to readers to indulge in the full luxurious choice which is available.

The Classics have three key qualities — literary merit, historical significance and an enduring reputation — and are now drawn from English literature and from all over the world.

The book starts with a brief history of the Penguin Classics series, of the work of its successive great editors, E.V. Rieu and Betty Radice, and of the gradual incopropration of other Penguin series, including the Poets and Shakespeare, under the umbrella of the Classics. The main body of the book is a concise history of the whole of literature, from its origins in Mesopotamia over four millenia ago to the end of the First World War a century ago.

The Penguin Classics Book is copiously illustrated, with an image of the first Penguin cover, whatever its original Penguin series, of every book which is now a Classic. The book ends with a selection of the front covers of books that, for one reason of another, have dropped out of the Classics and out of print, and with a detailed Index.

So it sums up the work of designers, typesetters, and picture researchers, as well as of authors, translators and editors. And The Penguin Classics Book, the result of two years of teamwork, is itself one of the most handsome books ever published by Penguin.

You can read a lot more about it here:

The Penguin Classics Book

Posted on Friday, 14th December 2018