Penguin Love Affair

May 12, 2009 at 2:05 pm 3 comments

I am SUCH a fangirl.

I am SUCH a fangirl.

When I’m not pretending like I’m cool enough to be a journalist, I like to think that one day, I’ll work for an awesome publishing company. Sometimes, I imagine working my way up from an intrepid young assistant to head of some small publishing firm no one has ever heard of…but other times, I dream big and think about working at Little Brown and Co., Simon & Schuster, or Macmillan.

When I’m dreaming huge, I dream of working at Penguin Classics.

Logo copyright Penguin Books Ltd., not me.

I don’t know what it is about Penguin. Maybe it’s the way the books all line up nicely on my shelf, exactly the same height, with the little white band featuring the tiny orange penguin marching across the row. Maybe it’s the clean look of the design — every single one exactly the same, with that black cover, white title, and orange author name. Maybe it’s my suppressed love for flightless birds. Who can tell?

That’s not to say they’re the only great publisher out there, or even the prettiest. I’m currently infatuated with Vintage U.K., a division of Random House that puts out books with lovely author biographies, beautiful covers, and a clean, modern house style. All the spines are red, with the author’s name in blue and the title in white, and as with Penguin, there is a certain satisfaction in having, say, the Bronte sisters’ masterpieces all matched up.

But Penguin has brains as well as beauty, incorporating supplemental material that helps explain the text and place it in context. For example, my Penguin classics edition of Jane Eyre includes a chronology of Charlotte Bronte’s life, an introduction, a list of futher reading, footnotes, and an appendix that includes contemporary reviews of the novel. Since Jane Eyre was quite controversial at the time, naturally having these reviews would be helpful to any student.

In contrast, my Vintage edition contains only the text of the novel behind its pretty cover. Not terrible, if what I’m looking for is to just sit down and read a book — which I often am, and that happens to be one of the reasons I bought this edition.

Penguin combines the academic wherewithal of an Oxford Classic (not too pretty) with the aesthetic satisfaction of Vintage. True, not all of their books look exactly the same — the deluxe editions of John Steinbeck, for example, are larger than the standard classics, with foldover covers and higher-quality pages that don’t match the other more workaday editions. Puffin Classics, the children’s imprint, uses bright colours and tiny graphics on the spines to distinguish the books, though they do all follow a certain house standard.

I guess my point is, I love it when publishers dedicate themselves to producing high-quality books that fulfill my standards of both form and function. I know this post reads like an ad for Penguin, but I don’t even care — they do a great job. Such a great job, in fact, that I am willing to overlook their putting Estella on the cover of their Red Edition of Great Expectations in an attempt to appeal to a more popular demographic, if only because the rest of their Dickens covers in this set look beautiful (especially Oliver Twist).

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Entry filed under: Musings and Essays. Tags: .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. neuroticmom  |  May 12, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    “I don’t know what it is about Penguin. Maybe it’s the way the books all line up nicely on my shelf, exactly the same height, with the little white band featuring the tiny orange penguin marching across the row. Maybe it’s the clean look of the design — every single one exactly the same, with that black cover, white title, and orange author name. Maybe it’s my suppressed love for flightless birds.” OR it might be the OCD you got from your mom I also love the way they all line up neatly on the shelf :)

    Sounds like you are bucking for a job at Penguin ~ go for it!!

    Reply
  • 2. KT  |  May 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I already went for a job…two, as I recall, and they didn’t respond but at all. :( Oh well, that’s the way the cover creases, I suppose!

    Reply
  • 3. Corey  |  May 13, 2009 at 11:58 am

    They may yet get back to you! Give them months and months…and months. I really think that job hunting is more like molasses than most people will tell you!

    Anyway, Penguin rocks and are the epitome of classy publishing. A worthy goal!

    Reply

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