BRITISH RETRO : BR04
C format paperback (216mm x 135mm)
gatefold cover. 160pp
colour illustrations by Christopher Vinz
cover design by Alexandra Andries
Studies in the narcotic analgesia of reading…
Tenderness and relaxed reverie in these photos of Jack London and T. S. Eliot, both aged either 8 or 9 (possibly 1885, 1896/97). Also portraits of retreat. Jack London is possibly in Heinold’s Saloon on the San Franciscan seafront, his reading a respite from the hardship of his upbringing, at work 12-18 hours daily; Eliot in his family’s summer home in Massachusetts, his reading an escape from illness and isolation – “setting the drug of dreams against the pain of living,” wrote one biographer.
Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin books, was a man who liked to be seen riding a virtuous horse though his spurs were as sharp as an abacus: money was his game and he chanced to sell his new Penguin range through his Penguincubator in 1937, in tobacconists alongside newspapers and boiled sweets, also a few placed as concessions in branches of F. W. Woolworth’s. One Penguincubator was commissioned at Charing Cross Station, placed next to a machine vending cigarettes. (6d the price of a packet of fags, 6d the price of the first Penguins, though am not sure if Lane had thought through how you were supposed to keep the books alight without a filter.) Booksellers in the Charing Cross locality objected to the Penguincubator and it was removed. It would seem that they were never successful in any case.