Celebrating 80 years of Penguin Books with 80 little black classics for just 80 pence each.
In 1935, if you wanted to read a good book, you needed either a lot of money or a library card. Cheap paperbacks were available, but they were poor production generally tended to mirror the quality between the covers.
Penguin paperbacks were the brainchild of Allen Lane, then a director of The Bodley Head. After a weekend visiting Agatha Christie in Devon, he found himself on a platform at Exeter Station searching its bookstall for something to read on his journey back to London, but discovered only popular magazines and reprints of Victorian novels.
Appalled by the selection on offer, Lane decided that good quality contempory fiction should be made avavilable at an attractive price and sold not just in traditional bookshops, but also in railways stations, tobacconists and chain stores.
He also wanted a ‘dignified but flippant’ symbol for his new business. His secretary suggested a Penguin and another employee was sent to London Zoo to make some sketches. Eighty years later penguin is still one of the most recognisable brands in the world.