Literary Locales: Where Allen Lane Invented the Paperback

October 27, 2010 at 12:00 am 4 comments

This is a part of our “Literary Locales” series here at LT. Check out the first post in the series for more information.

What: The Original Penguin Books H.Q.
Where: Vigo Street, London, England
Literary Connection: The first paperback was published here!
Recommended Reading: Anything by Ernest Hemingway, André Maurois and Agatha Christie as they were the first three authors to be published as paperbacks by Penguin
Transgression: Isn’t there something inherently saucy about the paperback in some respects?

As I wandered about Soho with my visiting mother looking for tea, we happened upon the above subtle plaque on Vigo Street. No one else on the street gave it a second glance and, truth be told, my eyes would have skimmed right over it as well where it not for that recognizable penguin figure set off in white at the bottom. Upon reading the plaque, we discovered that we were standing on the place where Penguin Books founder Allen Lane published his first paperback and, as the plaque states in the most grandiose manner possible, “changed reading habits throughout the English-speaking world.”

Now, I’m a historian and one who has studied the history of the book and I must admit that, before seeing this plaque, I never thought twice about the paperback. Now that I have, I’m in awe! Just think about it: before Allen Lane came along Vigo Street, books were heavy, expensive hardbacks. After 1935, you could actually afford to own good literature and you could, in practical terms, take it anywhere with you. It’s a remarkable idea and one which I should think deserves a full museum, not just a little plaque.



Entry filed under: Literary Locales, Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , .

Fairy Tale Friday: Novelized Fairy Tales Happy Halloween from LT!

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Em  |  October 27, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Well spotted!

    • 2. Corey  |  November 5, 2010 at 5:21 am


  • 3. Shannon  |  October 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I always loved that little Penguin logo when I was a kid — I felt like I was reading something special.

    • 4. Corey  |  November 5, 2010 at 5:22 am

      I totally agree. That little Penguin has some serious connotations of high quality. Whenever I see rows of those old orange and white Penguin books, I get so excited! Talk about good visual recognition!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Connect with LT

literarytransgressions (Gmail)

@LitTransgressor (Twitter)

LT RSS feed (Subscribe)

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 134 other followers


LT Archives

In accordance with FTC regulations…

...we must disclose that we are independent bloggers with no ties to authors, publishers, or advertisers. We are not given books or monetary compensation in return for favorable reviews or publicity.

Where we have received advance or complementary copies of books, it will be noted in the body of the entry, and will not affect our review or opinions in the slightest.

%d bloggers like this: