The Origin of Orange Penguins

2 min read

Image from Sky News.

Vintage orange Penguins are one of the most recognizable book formats... well, ever. Covering all kinds of famous and classic novels, these books are a piece of literary history that deserves a place on any bookshelf. Considering all that orange Penguins have done for the world of literature (and Penguin books in general, by extension) it only felt right to show our appreciation with orange being our colour of the month for July. While you're here, don't forget to check out our wide selection of vintage orange Penguin books including a wide range of classic titles!

 

Early Days

Penguin first took the world by storm in the 1930s when they revolutionised publishing with their accessible, inexpensive paperbacks. Founded by V. K. Krishna Menon and Sir Allen Lane with his two brothers, Richard and John, they originally sold for a sixpence each. The first were published in 1935, and this allowed for the general public to buy books much more easily, making literature and novels more obtainable for the masses. As the books continued and their colours became varied to indicate different genres and subject matter (green Penguins for crime and mystery, dark blue and white for biographies, and so on), Penguin only grew in popularity - but the orange originals remain the most memorable today, almost a century on.

 

Evolution

After World War 2, the classic Penguin format continued to evolve, including the introduction of one of their most memorable creations - the Penguin Classics - the first of which was a translation of Homer's Odyssey by E. V. Rieu. The many branches of Penguin covers and styles continued through the work of graphic designer Germano Facetti in 1961. Facetti was responsible for (as briefly mentioned above) the colour-coding of Penguins, beginning with the green that is now associated with crime and mystery books, and going on to establish many other branches. These include Penguin Specials, Penguin Classics, Penguin Modern Classics, and more, providing a visual setting for different selections. There were over one hundred different series produced in total, all of which can still be found in bookstores across the world today. Others extensions include Pelicans, Puffins, Penguin Poets, Penguins Plays, and much more.

 

Today

Penguin is now one of the largest English publishers, being listed as one of the top five; the others being Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. Though the classic orange format may now seem dated, Penguin continues to release new and exciting editions of classic titles, showing that you can be in with the new without necessarily having to be out with the old. From the currently popular New Penguin Classics to first editions of original orange Penguins, these books continue to be a staple in the world of literature, and we at Country House Library can't wait to see what they turn out in the years to come.


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