Penguin Portrait:
Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors 1935-1970

Steve Hare (editor)

Penguin 1995
A book review by Danny Yee © 1997
Penguin Portrait is not a formal history of Penguin, nor a biography of Allen Lane and other Penguin editors. It is a collection of letters, telegrams, and memoranda to and from Penguin staff (among them Allen Lane, Bill Williams, Eunice Frost, A.S.B. Glover and E.V. Rieu), Penguin authors (such as George Orwell, Bernard Shaw, Robert Graves, Dorothy L. Sayers, Niklaus Pevsner and John Wyndham) and Penguin readers. These are grouped around particular people, books or series of books, and themes. The latter include such things as the role of Penguin during the war, the almost numerological care with which series numbers such as 100 were allocated, the problems finding a good illustration of a triffid, mistakes and misprints, the expansion of Penguin to Australia and the United States, run-ins with censorship (notably the trial resulting from the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover), and all kinds of other topics.

The significance of Penguin's contributions to publishing is undoubted. (If I try to visualise a "generic" book, it is a Penguin paperback that appears, and I have reviewed more books of Penguin's than of any other publisher.) Anyone interested in the history of English literature during the middle forty years of this century should find Penguin Portrait highly rewarding. But I also enjoyed it because it describes a milieu in which I would have enjoyed working myself, in which creative and intelligent people were thrown together to produce outstanding examples of that most glorious of human creations — the book.

December 1997

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%T Penguin Portrait
%S Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors 1935-1970
%E Hare, Steve
%I Penguin
%D 1995
%O paperback, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0140238522
%P xvi,368pp