Allen Lane’s well known failure to find a book to read at Exeter St. David’s railway station prompted him to found the now world famous Penguin Books.
The story is a familiar one: how he couldn’t find a book worth reading for the journey home after a meeting with Agatha Christie, and decided it was time to publish the best writing in an affordable format - the first Penguin paperbacks cost six old pence.
The now famous Penguin logo was chosen because it was ‘dignified and flippant’, the design itself based on specially-drawn sketches of Penguins made at London Zoo.
Authors included in the first batch of Penguin paperbacks included Agatha Christie and Ernest Hemingway. Penguin, founded in 1935, has since published many books and many great writers.
A personal pick of Penguin books in the NHBS catalogue might include: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, one of the most important and influential non-fiction works of the Twentieth Century; Hubbard’s famous Grasses, dated but still definitive, with line drawings of identification features that have not been bettered; Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle, a surprisingly accessible account of his famous round-the-world voyage; and Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne, the original nature writing classic.
And Gerald Durrell is there too - for many of us a writer who did more than most to stimulate an interest in natural history and the natural world.