Allen Lane had the revolutionary idea to offer cheap, quality books through outlets like railway stations and newsagents. He wanted to make good books as accessible and as cheap to procure — six pence! — as purchasing a pack of cigarettes from a kiosk. Lane launched his new line of books with ten inexpensive paperbacks, all of them reprints.
Simply designed with broad bands of color (orange for general fiction, green for crime fiction, dark blue for biographies), and using the font Gill Sans-Serif, the original ten books immediately established themselves within the history of design.
Skeptics dismissed Lane's idea as imprudent and crazy, but by March 1936 — ten months after the company's launch — one million Penguin books had been printed. Within a year Penguin had sold 3 million paperbacks. By April 1938 the first 140 titles had been published, as well as 30 Pelicans, 18 of the Shakespeare series, and one Penguin Special. The skeptics were proved wrong and a new, innovative publishing model was launched into the world.Today, Penguin Books continues to make many new and classic works available to the general masses and is synonymous with quality literature at affordable prices . It was an essential link in the chain from the time when only the wealthy could own books, to the present where so much of it is only a click away. Happy Birthday Penguin!
Here is the complete list of the first ten books published by Penguin:
Ariel or the Life of Shelley by André Maurois
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Poet's Pub by Eric Linklater
Madame Claire by Susan Ertz
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Twenty-Five by John Beverley Nichols
William by E. H. Young
Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
Carnival by Compton Mackenzie