The Works of Shakespeare in Penguin

Penguin B3 April 1937

The complete works of William Shakespeare were published by Penguin books in 37 volumes between 1937 and 1959, with a long hiatus between the 18th and 19th volume caused by the Second World War.

The first six volumes were published in April 1937 and were numbered B1- B6, even though the Shakespeare series predated by one month the start of the Pelican series, which had been given the A numbers. The whole series was edited and prepared by Dr. G B Harrison, who also provided the notes for each volume.

The first 21 volumes were published in red covers designed by Edward Young, who had designed all of the original Penguin covers. The front cover was decorated with a black and white woodcut of Shakespeare by Robert Gibbings. This was the first series published by Penguin to have an image on the front cover rather than pure typography. The first 18 books were published in dust jackets in three blocks of six each in April 1937, August 1937 and April 1938. The last three books with the original red covers, B19, B20 & B21, were published without dust jackets after the war in September 1947.

The series was renewed and completed by the publication of volumes B22 to B37 in a new black and white cover, designed by Jan Tschichold as part of the Penguin renovation project. These volumes carried a new wood engraving of Shakespeare by Reynolds Stone on the front cover, which was repeated on the title page. Volume B22 was published in October 1951 and the series ended with volume B37 which was published in September 1959.

Volumes B1 – B18 were priced at sixpence each (1937 – 1938). 
Volumes B19 – B21 were priced at 1 shilling each (1947).
Volumes B22 – B25 were priced at 2 shillings each (1951 – 1954).
Volumes B26 – B37 were priced at 2 shillings and sixpence (1955 – 1959), with the exception of volume B36, Henry VI, parts 1, 2 & 3 which was published in March 1959 and was priced as a double volume at 5 shillings.

My list of the Penguin Shakespeare series B will be found here. 

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