Books about Penguin books

If you are a serious, or even casual, collector of Penguin books, or if you are just interested in their story, then some of these books may be of interest to you. This is my set of books about Penguin books. Here is the list, roughly in order of publication.

Books about Penguin

The Penguin Story   (Penguin Q21, 1956)

This little book was published by Penguin as Q21, part of its miscellaneous list. It describes the beginnings and initial successes and expansion of Penguin Books from 1935 until 1956, its first 21 years.

Penguin Progress  1935-1960 (Penguin Q25, 1960)

This Penguin Progress was issued to mark the first 25 years of the life of Penguin Books.

Fifty Penguin Years (Penguin 1985)

This book marks and describes the first 50 years of the story of Penguin books.It carries the Penguin story from the earliest beginnings by the three Lane Brothers, through the floatation of the company in the 1960s and the subsequent more turbulent and corporate years of the 1970s and 1980s.

A Rare Bird: Penguin Books in Australia 1946-1996 by Geoffrey Dutton (Penguin 1996)

Penguin Books had been available in Australia almost from the beginning of Penguin in 1935. For much of that time, a local publisher, Lothian Books was used to distribute and then during the war years, print and publish Penguins in Australia.
In 1946, Bill Maynard and his wife were sent out from London to start up a proper Penguin Books Australia operation. Richard Lane, who had spent several years as a youth in Australia, and who had an Australian wife, also came out to Australia where he helped to extend the role of Penguin Australia.

This book describes the foundation and expansion of Penguin Australia through its first fifty years. The author was a well known Australian historian and writer.

Penguin by Design A Cover Story 1935-2005 by Phil Baines (Penguin 2005)

Seven Hundred Penguins (Penguin 2007)

Abram Games and Penguin Books by Naomi Games (Penguin collectors society 2013)


Lists of Penguins

Penguin Classified list 1960 (Penguin 1960)

This little book is very useful as it is a complete list, by series, of all of the books published by Penguin from 1935 to 1960.


Puffins for Children 1962 (Penguin 1962) 

This book, presented anonymously, but with a preface by the then editor of Puffin Books, Kaye Webb, lists with a short description the current list of Puffin Story books, available in Australia in 1962.


A Checklist of the Puffin Picture Books   (Penguin Collectors Society, 2010)

William Shakespeare in Penguin Books  (Penguin Collectors Society, 2012)


This book documents the history of the publication of Shakespeare by Penguin in all forms and series, starting with the Penguin Shakespeare ‘B’ series, starting in 1937, the Pelican Shakespeare ‘AB’ series, the New Penguin Shakespeare ‘NPS’ series, the Penguin Popular Classics (0714 ISBN prefix) and the Penguin Shakespeare (0141 ISBN prefix) series, which started in 2005.

Pelican Books A1-A507 (1937-1960).  2nd edition (Dragonby press 1990)


The First Thousand Penguins: Penguin main series 1-1000 (Dragonby press 1991)


The Second Thousand Penguins: Penguin main series 1001-2000 (Dragonby press 1991)


Puffin Story Books PS1-PS148 (1941-1960)  2nd edition (Dragonby press 1996)


Books about Allan Lane

Allan Lane King Penguin by J E Morpurgo (Hutchinson 1979)

Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors 1935-1970 Edited by Steve Hare (Penguin 1995)

This book is a selection of extracts of correspondence held in the Penguin Books archive at Bristol University. Each of the major members of the editorial staff in the Allen Lane era at Penguin is given a section and the extracts have been well chosen by Steve Hare to illustrate the editorial staff’s expertise, idiosyncrasies and contribution to the growth and reputation of Penguin.
The Penguin Collectors Society announced the death of Steve Hare on Tuesday 10 March 2015. Steve was an officer of the Society for 22 years and his contribution to the work of the Society and to the world of Penguin matters generally has been incalculable.

Penguin Special The Life and Times of Allen Lane by Jeremy Lewis (Viking 2005)

Penguin and the Lane Brothers by Stuart Kells (Black Ink 2015)

This book explores the lives of the three Lane brothers, with a special focus on Richard Lane, helped by access to his papers granted by his daughter to the author. The book explores the early life of the brothers, the hard years spent as a farm labourer by Richard Lane in his youth, and tries to dispel some of the myths created  around Allan Lane, as the sole genius behind Penguin Books. Richard Lane’s contribution is recognised here for the first time.

Penguin Typography and Typographers

Penguins on the March by Herbert Spenser in Typographia 5 (1962) reprinted 2013



  Jan  Tschichold: typographer by Ruari McLean (David Godine 1975)



Two Titans: Mardersteig and Tschichold by Hans Schmoller (The Typophiles 1990)




Jan Tschichold Designer: The Penguin Years by Richard B Doubleday (Oak Knoll 2006)



One thought on “Books about Penguin books

  1. Hello Chris, You have a Great blog/site! I live in New York (Long Island – about 45 or so miles or so from the city). My interests focus on the history of the original English company 1935-1970 (especially pre-1950) and those Penguins, Pelicans, etc. not published here in the States – interest areas include titles in history, politics, literature, and titles pertaining to specifically English and British Isles issues; usually those subjects that were/ are not intended for American readers. Also intersted in country-specific titles from the same areas from Canada and Australia.I have been aware of the Penguin Collectors Society for quite awhile, and unfortunately haven't joined since it's a bit deep in the pockets for membership from the States; and of course the meetings and events all take place in the UK. However, I did buy through the run of Penguin Collector Newsletters #1 through the early 90's (?) + the first 12-14 or so of their Special issues about Penguin from Richard Williams in Scunthorpe (during the early 2000's), and also know of his Dragonby Press. Those inventory lists of the first thousand Penguins and Pelicans you've listed are \”mouthwatering\” to have as references. The 1956 anniversary publication I came across in the research stacks of the main branch of Boston Public Library, when I was living there.While not an active collector of Penguins, I enjoy acquiring titles that I want to read (which of course include the above areas), and those Penguins which are unique in some way (again, especially pre-1950). I found a Penguin #1 in the outside bookshelves at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in 1985 – a reading copy condition fair plus – OK to good. A later printing in 1936 or '37(?) maybe. I bought on-line, from an Irish bookseller, the 1940 (?) Pelican collection of essays by Henry Nevinson. It has thin covers and almost onion skin quality pages – a bit of wartime history here in this edition. My want list includes both early Penguin Specials by Mowrer (China & Germany puts back the clock) and 3rd ed of Searchlight on Spain by Dutchess of Atholl – these seem to turn up at reasonable prices in the UK & if one is lucky, in the States as well.I have both Alan Lane biographies, and several of the other books about Penguin that have been published since the early 2000's, including Steve Hare's book. My latest plan is to acquire the books Penguin & The Lane Brothers, and the biography of Nicklaus Pevsner.I always wonder how many members of the Peguin Collectors Society live in the U.S., and if there might be a way to arrange a get together (maybe amongst those living in the same region? – North Dakota and California for example are very far from New York). And of course it would be great to meet a member over here who is a lady and has other similar interests to mine! Once again, you have an informative web blog which I will be visiting again. Cheers, Ed in New York, U.S.A. PS – I also enjoy listening to and collecting jazz and late 60's rock.


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