Covers for Penguin fiction titles by designers including Derek Birdsall (above, top left) and Alan Fletcher (bottom left)
In 1962, issue five in the second series of the design journal Typographica spotlighted the work of Penguin’s design team under newly-appointed art director, Germano Facetti. The extensive feature is now reproduced as a brilliantly-realised facsimile edition, published by the Penguin Collectors Society…
Part of the PCS’s remit as an educational charity is to collect and archive material which aids further understanding of the history of the publisher.
While many of its discoveries end up in the physical Penguin archive at the University of Bristol Library, the PCS is also an active publisher and events organiser itself, exploring the design of both Penguin and Puffin through study days and books.
Cover of the PCS facsimile edition of Typographica 5
Its latest publication reproduces a landmark piece of design writing which put a critical focus on the work that Penguin was doing some 52 years ago: Herbert Spencer’s survey of the publisher’s design approach, Penguins on the March, which appeared in the fifth issue of the second series of the journal he had founded in 1949.
Covers for Penguin Crime by Romek Marber, except for two shown top left (George Mayhew) and top, second from left (John Sewell)
Complete with 28 colour and black-and-white images of Penguin covers (as per the original spreads), the reproduction of the feature is impressive. The new edition even replicates the foldout section that showed a further 36 covers.
Much credit is due here to the Chippenham-based printers, Octoprint, who worked to replicate the original in every way; the design, typography and paper all hark back to its first outing in June 1962.
Pelican Books covers
The spreads themselves are also remarkable in the space they give to imagery. Spencer’s text does not dominate the layout; rather there is more of an equal footing between the analysis and the visual examples. While original single editions of the journal command around £100 on eBay, Rick Poynor’s 2001 book, Typographica, remains the authoritative text on the journal’s 18-year existence – and is well illustrated with spreads from the publication throughout.
The evolution of the Penguin logo, originally drawn by Edward Young in 1935, refined in 1939 and then redrawn by Jan Tschichold
With an introduction by the designer and design historian Richard Hollis, the PCS’s facsimile edition aims to bring this hard-to-find feature on Penguin’s design heritage to a wider audience (though it is limited to a run of 700 copies). Hollis’ introduction also contextualises the original feature, a very useful way in to understanding Spencer’s take on Penguin’s design standing in the 60s.
Foldout section of various Penguin covers
But the publication of Typographica 5 also has its own peculiar story to tell, which the PCS addresses within this single volume. The reproduction also includes the ‘correction’ that was printed in Typographica 6 which pointed out that it was Romek Marber who designed the ‘crime grid’ for Penguin – afterwards applied to the whole Penguin range – rather than Facetti, as stated in issue 5.
The ‘correction’ spread from Typographica 6 showing Romek Marber’s cover grid and his notes on its design
Marber’s handwritten notes and drawn grids are as important an inclusion here as they were in the December 1962 edition, six months after the main Penguin piece appeared. Thankfully, design history has since maintained the significance of his input, and it is heartening to reflect on the achievements being made at the company at the time.
The Typographica facsimile is published in an edition of 700 by the Penguin Collectors Society, 24pp (plus a four-page foldout); £8 plus p&p. Published with the approval and permission of Lund Humphries, Typographica’s original publisher, and Herbert Spencer’s daughter, Mafalda, it is available from the PCS online store. Further details on the 2009 exhibition Typographica curated by Rick Poynor can be found here; while an index of contents featured in the first 16 editions of the second series of the journal is available at modernism101.com.