A Penguin book using the original colour system.
Marilyn went off to her usual Saturday morning car boot sale in Raynes Park this morning. When she came back she brought me two presents. First, a bar of Belgium chocolate made from coffee beans from Madagascar, which sadly, exists no longer, and secondly a copy of Claire Tomlin’s Jane Austen :A life, she picked up from a second hand book stall. This edition was one of a series of books chosen to be republished in Penguins original format to commemorate Penguin being the publisher of the year in 2007. I already have the original Penguin paperback version of Jane Austen: A life, with the pale green cover, a print of Steventon Rectory in the background and prominently to the fore, Cassandra’s sketch of Jane. I also have an e-book version on my i-pad for when I take friends to Jane sites so I can easily find quotes from Claire about the place we are at.
This 2007 version of Tomlin’s biography of Jane is different from the 1997 edition. Penguins have used the cover system that they originated when Penguin was founded by Allen Lane in 1935. There are many aspects of the style which are iconic. Penguin books and their distinctive covers were something I was used to when I was growing up in Southampton, so there is a strong element of nostalgia connected with this cover design. Penguin published only the very best in academic writing, in novel writing and writing of all types. They were also renowned for bringing on the best new writing talent and were never afraid to develop strange ideas and subjects. All this comes with feelings of comfort and memories of enjoying reading books from a youthful age. One of the key concepts that Allen Lane wanted to promote was the idea that the best writing should be accessed by the whole population. Penguins were first sold in places like Woolworths and W.H. Smiths for 6d.
The style of my,” new,” edition of Jane Austen; A Life, is simple. The cover is divided into three broad horizontal bands of colour, from top to bottom, navy blue, white and navy blue. The title and authors name are printed within the white band, in a simple black and white print , created as a modern type face in the 1930’s. Below this in the lower blue band is the iconic Penguin symbol. The story goes that Allen Lane wanted a logo and name that would be attractive to all. A secretary at 8 Vigo Street, just off Regent Street where Allen Lane had his office,, overheard a conversation about using an animal logo. She suggested a penguin. Everybody liked the idea and Edward Young, the illustrator, was sent off to London Zoo where he spent a day sketching penguins in all sorts of poses.
The colour bands were designed to denote what type of book they were. The Claire Tomlin biography of Jane Austen is dark blue because biographys were dark blue. Green, was crime fiction, cerise, travel books, red, plays, yellow was used for that very important genre, miscellaneous, light purple were letters and essays and grey was world affairs. Allen Lane also developed his publishing house with brands called Pelicans and King Penguins.