Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pelican Books

A Levenger catalogue arrived today in the mail. It offers absolutely drool-worthy notebooks, fountain pens, desk accessories, leather gear, furniture, and lamps for the personal library - all out of my price range of course. It touts itself as the purveyor of Tools for Serious Readers.

On the cover of this catalogue is the orange Penguin edition of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Seeing it sent me to my bookshelves to find my one book that has the distinctive Penguin cover. Mine is not a Penguin though. It is a Pelican sporting a light blue cover with the white band. The title is A Book of English Essays by W.E. Williams. It is number A99.

The original price was one shilling and sixpence. I paid two pounds for it in 2002 in a used bookstore on Charing Cross Road in London. The copyright date is 1948 and the owner signed his name in ink on the title page: J. Leslie ???? Nov.'48. I can't quite make out the last name...Weigh or Neigh?

Anyway, this is a prize in my library, not only because I bought it in London, but because is contains essays by Addison and Steele, along with Charles Lamb, Robert Louis Stevenson, A.A. Milne, and Aldous Huxley.

Wikipedia tells me that Pelican was an enlargement of Penguin books that Sir Allen Lane founded in 1935. Pelicans came along in 1937 and were intended to educate rather than entertain. The first Pelican was George Bernard Shaw's The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism.

I see that Mr. Williams, the editor of my book, was one of the four members of the advisory board for the Pelicans and was editor-in-chief of Penguin from 1936 to 1965.

The Pelican series was discontinued in 1984.

I don't see too many old Penguins or Pelicans in American used bookstores which is a shame. In looking for the image above I find that there are some interesting volumes on architecture, composers, poetry, opera, wild flowers, Queen Elizabeth I and life in Shakespeare's time.

This could be a new book quest for me. I see trouble ahead.

No comments:

Post a Comment