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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Lane

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly”*…

 

Pelican

The first Pelican title

 

It was a university course for the price of a packet of cigarettes: Pelican Books! Maybe the blend wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying the addictive nature of the range!

Pulp Librarian looks back at the autodidact’s library of choice: “Pelican Books.”

* Sir Francis Bacon

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As we double-down on democratization, we might send chronically-correct birthday greetings to Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon; he was born on this date in 1707.  A naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste, Buffon formulated a crude theory of evolution, and was the first to suggest that the earth might be older than suggested by the Bible: in 1778 he proposed that the Earth was hot at its creation and, judging from the rate of its cooling, calculated its age to be 75,000 years, with life emerging some 40,000 years ago.

In 1739 Buffon was appointed keeper of the Jardin du Roi, a post he occupied until his death. There he worked on the comprehensive work on natural history for which he is remembered, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière. He began in 1749, and it dominated the rest of his life.  It would eventually run to 44 volumes, covering quadrupeds, birds, reptiles and minerals.  As Ernst Mayr remarked, “truly, Buffon was the father of all thought in natural history in the second half of the 18th century.”

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Written by LW

September 7, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Oh, I am fortune’s fool!”*…

 

Something on your mind?  Ask the (interactive version of) xkcd’s oracle

* Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

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As we plan accordingly, we might recall, with gratitude, that it was on this date in 1935 that Alan Lane released the first ten titles in the Penguin paperback book series.  At the time a junior player at a publisher called Bodley Head, he was frustrated by the lack of affordable contemporary literature.  He wanted to offer cheap, quality books through outlets like railway stations and newsagents as well as traditional bookshops– to make good books accessible.  So his volumes were priced at 6 pence each, while the typical hardcover book sold for 7 and 8 shillings.  The experiment was a huge success: within a year, Penguin had sold 3 million paperbacks; skeptics– there were many (an earlier experiments in paperbacks in Germany had fizzled)– had been proved wrong; and Lane launched Penguin as a standalone publisher.

The original Penguins are an eclectic mix – a biography of Shelley, a Hemingway classic, a novel set in a pub, a novel about an old lady, two mysteries, an autobiography, and three more rather romantic novels– by authors both still widely read (Hemingway, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie) and not so well remembered (e.g., Mary Webb, E.H. Young, Susan Ertz).

Today, 80 years later, more than 600 million paperbacks are sold annually worldwide.

The First Ten Penguins, 1985 reprint box set

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Written by LW

July 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

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