Whilst I was ‘playing’ with my books today (i.e. moving them around in their piles or on their shelves, looking at covers, blurbs etc), I found a pair of old Penguin books catalogues from 1955 and 1958. I think I got them via a book swap some time ago, put them aside and forgot all about them until today. On further examination these little paperback sized ‘Classified Lists’ are fascinating.
They appear to have been published roughly halfway through the year – 1955’s was in July, 1958’s in May strangely. All the fiction is listed first, followed by crime and mystery. Then we have all the non-fiction topics including Pevsner, plus Puffins for children, and the luxury King Penguins. At the end of the main list is that of forthcoming books for the rest of the year, and finally indexes of authors and titles.
Of course this sent me off to the book mountains to see if I had any old Penguins that were listed. I know I’ve got a first of John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes which was published in 1955 but could I find it? Sadly no, but I did find The Blessing by Nancy Mitford which was reprinted in 1958, and a slightly later edition of The Deceivers by John Masters which Penguin published in 1955 as well as five volumes of plays by George Bernard Shaw.
Finally, reading the forthcoming titles in the 1958 list, I spotted ecological dystopia The Death of Grass by John Christopher. It has recently been reissued in the latest Penguin Classics livery which I bought just the other week. Brilliant stuff!