Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Penguin "Black Classics"

During the 1960s to 1970s Penguin Books released the series of black covered classics. In the 1950s the covers were much simpler though of uniform design.

longus_daphnis plato_protagorus plato_socrates
virgil_aeneid roland dante_hell

The “Black Classics” however all have wonderfully appropriate works of art on the front cover, for instance all the Ibsen Plays in the series are graced with cover art by Edvard Munch.

ibsen_master_builder_60s ibsen_master_builder_70s

1964 Edition
Detail of portrait of Ibsen

1973 Edition
Detail of "The RedVineyard"


1974 Edition – Detail of “The Sick Child” by Munch

ibsen_hedda ibsen_plays

1973 Edition
Detail of a lithograph by Munch

1974 Edition
Detail of "Agony" by Munch

I have quite a good collection of the Penguin “Black Classics”, most of them acquired in the 1960s. There was, I remember, a small bookshop in an inner Melbourne suburb, which sold Penguin seconds (i.e. slightly shop soiled) at ridiculously cheap prices. Also I was lucky to have a friend who worked for Penguin. Penguin employees had access to a “pig” bin of seconds and were able to take their pick of them. My friend gave me boxes of these, so I have many books that appear very interesting, but remain unread. They now appear to have become collector’s items.

Next – more “Black Classics”

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