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The largest Penguin Book Reference Site on the Web

☆ Currently over 115 pages of lists, over 7,300 entries and 6,800 images.     

Penguin Books began in July 1935. Allen Lane, its founder, was always looking for new ideas and ways to diversify. He planned the development of different series and 80 years ago, in 1937, launched four new series.

The first to appear was a new edition of Shakespeare's works, edited and annotated by G. B. Harrison. 6 titles of series 'B' PENGUIN SHAKESPEARE were published on 22 April 1937 (a day before the anniversary of Shakespeare's birthday).

Allen Lane must have already planned series 'A' sometime before and, although finally delayed by a week, launched PELICANS (prefix 'A') on 28 May 1937, with 9 books. The Pelican series had a deliberately educative purpose. There was to be 'no pandering to an imagined "popular taste"' these were serious books on a range of subjects. Lane commented: 'people want books, they want good books, and that they are willing, even anxious to buy them, if they are presented to them in a straightforward, intelligent manner at a cheap price'. Unlike the main series, these were not necessarily reprints and gradually the balance shifted to specially commissioned works, and became a hallmark of Penguin Book's quality. The first two in the series were written by George Bernard Shaw, and with war looming, explained some of the politics and economics involved.

In the late 1930s, with the prospect of international conflict looming, the public were keen to discover what was happening. One of Allen Lane's gifts was to anticipate the wishes of the public, and the public wanted answers to make sense of the problems in their world. And so, late in 1937, he introduced a third series, PENGUIN SPECIALS, current affair books 'produced rapidly to cater for readers eager for information'. The Specials were very popular - the first, 'S1' launched on 14 November 1937, was Germany Puts the Clock Back, which sold out its 50,000 print run in the first week. Lane was also fortunate in his timeliness since a whole generation that had grown up after the First World War 'were greatly concerned with the movement towards the next'. When war finally came, it too generated a further reading public: service-men and those who read to fill long hours, those at home in the blackout, and those keen on learning and self-improvement.

Finally, on 26 November, Penguin produced its last batch of 10 main series books for 1937. The last one, no. 120 was entitled 'PENGUIN PARADE' and became 'PD1', the first of a group of 14 books, that would stretch into two series till 1948.

1937 was an enormously successful year for Penguin Books. During 1937 Penguin published 50 new main series titles, 12 Shakespeares, 20 Pelicans and the first Special. The massive sales of Penguins, Pelicans and Specials during 1937 to 1939 had an additional benefit. When wartime paper rationing was introduced it was based on current consumption. This enabled Penguin not only to carry on its programme of publications, but also to launch new ventures.

This website provides an easy to use comprehensive resource for Penguin lovers everywhere!   A unique reference site for Penguin Book collectors and researchers - with lists and images of early Penguin and vintage Penguin books. There are also alphabetical lists of designers and translators. Plus pages on Penguin Ephemera, Classified Booklists and Penguin Progress, and lists of the Penguin Collectors Society publications.


This site is a free information resource on Penguin First Edition books (or Penguin First Impressions) - those lovely early and vintage Penguin paperbacks which have now become very collectable!

The site includes detailed lists of books, photographs and information on all of the early Penguin Books - usually thought of as the first 21 years of publishing - from 1935 to 1956, although we also list books and/or series running into the 1960s and 1970s.

You can access the various series from the WEBSITE CONTENTS.

You can also view a list of all the 'PENGUIN SERIES' (also accessed from the green tab on the left) of all the books and periodicals series published by Penguin from 1935. In the list you will find those series already included in our data-base are entered in CAPITAL letters. Just click on that to take you to the relevant series. Each page contains information, with titles and photographs of covers.

There is also a growing section on The HISTORY of Penguin Books.

Penguin No. 1

Penguin No. 1,000

First Pelican (A1)
This website is intended to provide a resource for those who are collecting PENGUIN BOOKS, researching PENGUIN BOOKS or are just interested or fascinated by them and want to know more. It should be of help to researchers and collectors. All of the series produced by Penguin are collected - and some books are much rarer than others and have become prized by the cognoscenti. Although many thousands of copies were made of most books, some have almost but disappeared - hence their rarity and high value. However, for many of us, it is that familiar look and feel that brings warmth. This web-site is for those who love PENGUIN BOOKS or simply want to find out more about them.

  • LIST OF ALL SERIES - and a link to the information

  • MAIN SERIES 1 - 3,000
    The first ten were published in July 1935 and sold for 6d.(six pence) each. By 30 July 1954 Penguin had published Number 1,000. We have listed the complete run to 3,000, the final book being Ulysses by James Joyce, pubished in April 1969. The listings take the publication date to around 1970.
    Penguin used the colours of the cover to signify different types of book:
    Fiction were in Orange covers
    Biography in Dark Blue
    Crime/Detection in Green
    Travel and Adventure in Cerise
    Plays in Red
    Miscellaneous in Yellow
    Essays and Belles Lettres in a Light Purple
    World Affairs in Grey.

  • PELICANS 1 - 600
    Penguin published PELICANS from May 1937. These were in their familiar light blue and white covers. We list the first 600 which were published up to early 1963 (and are building up the listings to 1,000).

    This was a very fine set of (what later became very collectable) illustrated hardbacks - The KING PENGUIN series - This series began in November 1939 and the final book, number 76 was published in 1959.


    This site would like to acknowledge the help provided by Helen Beardsley and the staff at the Archives and Special Collections section of Stirling University Library which houses the Mitchell Penguin Collection, a collection of some 3,500 Penguin Books collected by Dr Angus Mitchell (a former Chair of the University Court). [see 'Useful Links' page]

    We also acknowledge the assistance the Penguin Random House archive library and Sue Payne, its Library Co-ordinator.

    We would like to thank Hannah Lowery, Archivist at the Special Collections, University of Bristol Library for her help. [also to be found on the 'Useful Links' page]

    We also are grateful for the co-operation of the Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh Library, in accessing their Penguin Book Collection.

    PENGUIN BOOKS UK particularly wishes to acknowledge with grateful thanks the kind permission of Penguin Books Ltd. (UK) to reproduce its book covers and, where incorporated, its various logos. We would wish to point out to users of this site that, as appropriate, Penguin Books Ltd. and its designers retain their copyright and/or intellectual property in the relevant material.

    Please make your selection from the menus on the left side of this page to access the information resources.

    If you prefer, you can alternatively browse the website from this sitemap.

  • This page was last modified on 15 February 2017
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