July 30, 2010 is the 75th anniversary of the launch of Penguin Books. Before Penguin, books were expensive to purchase; if one wished to read a book, one ponied up the blunt (and this was 1935, smack in the middle of the Great Depression, remember) or got it from the library. Penguin brought affordable paperback editions of popular books to news agents, train stations, and other nontraditional bookselling locations, and revolutionized publishing and reading. The bookcovers featured simple, bold design, and color coding: orange for general literature, blue for biography, etc. While none of Jane Austen’s books were among the original ten, they have enjoyed great representation in the Penguin catalog ever since.
The celebration will continue over the summer:
A bright-orange Penguin Mobile (an adorable Mini Cooper with the Penguin logo) is driving to bookstores all over the US to bring some of our bestselling authors to parties in their hometowns, increase awareness of The Nature Conservancy, and promote literacy. At each event, a set of 75 Penguin Books is donated to a local library or literacy group. Each author is signing the Penguin-mobile as it makes its way across the United States, and the summer’s events will culminate with a party at the New York Public Library in September where Penguin will auction the car with the proceeds going to the New York Public Library. Penguin is also donating sets of books to numerous U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
AustenBlog congratulations Penguin on their 75th anniversary, and like hobbits, they are giving away gifts on their birthday! Penguin has sent us two copies of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of P&P, with the Ruben Toledo-illustrated cover, to give away to two AustenBlog readers. If you would like to be entered in the giveaway, respond to this posting with a valid e-mail address that you check regularly and let us know your thoughts about Penguin and this auspicious occasion. If you wish to comment and not be entered in the drawing, just say so in your comment. After the jump, just for fun, we’ve assembled a gallery of some of Jane Austen’s Penguin covers from over the years.