Penguin Books


penguin 515

Penguin Books began as a European colony on the American continent: Robert Jonas, Penguin's most important cover designer , was a European at heart, and Kurt Enoch was German by birth.
Penguin used the same format as Pocket Books and Avon, but after four years they chose a "tall" format similar to that used by Albatross and British Penguin.
Where the competition's covers were little more than an attack on the senses, Penguin's were more civilized, more cultured, and also more complex; most of them could be used today without seeming dated or ridiculous.

With their introduction of PELICAN BOOKS (later to be named MENTOR BOOKS), a series of nonfiction titles, Penguin set a precedent which was not followed up by other quality paperback publishers until after the war.

In July of 1939, a month after the first Pocket Books were distributed in New York, British Penguin opened an American branch in that same city, with offices at 3 East 17th Street.
The firm's initial stock consisted of a hundred British Penguins; the director of the enterprise was Ian Ballantine, a young American who studied economics in London. Ballantine had a staff of two: his wife Betty and stockboy Bill Halusic.

The American Penguin branch was set up strictly as an importer: their task was to bring Penguins, Pelicans and PENGUIN SPECIALS in from England and to sell them in America for 25 cents a copy. This turned out not to be quite as simple as it sounds, though, as the books had to be transported not only from England to East 17th Street, but also from East 17th Street to booksellers throughout America. At this point, Ballantine was missing the one service to which Pocket Books owed its phenomenal succes: an effective distribution network.


    (from The Book of Paperbacks by Piet Schreuders, Virgin Books,1981)   read on