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Penguin, Puffin and the Paperback Revolution

The Penguin Archive

1 September 2010

The Penguin Archive, housed in Special Collections, features in a documentary on the history of Penguin Books presented by children's author Michael Morpurgo on Radio 4 this Thursday (2 Sep) at 11.30am.

Penguin Books was founded 75 years ago by Morpurgo's father-in-law, Allen Lane.  Morpurgo grew up in a house full of Penguins and Puffins because his step-father, Jack, was one of the editors at the company.  As a child, Morpurgo remembers meeting Sir Allen when he came over for dinner; later, he met and married Sir Allen's eldest daughter Clare.

In the programme, Michael Morpurgo delves into the Penguin Archive at the University of Bristol and meets family members and historians to uncover how Sir Allen revolutionised the publishing industry and changed the way the nation reads.

He explores the impact of Puffins, launched in 1940, on children's relationships with books and he reflects on what Lane felt about the infamous 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' trial in 1960.

He also hears from Penguin authors Nick Hornby and Sue Townsend about what it feels like to be part of publishing history.

The Penguin Archive is held at the University of Bristol Library Special Collections.  It contains the archives of Penguin Books Ltd. from its foundation in 1935 to the 1980s: a wide variety of materials on the establishment and business life of Penguin, social events, legal cases (particularly the Lady Chatterley's Lover trial of 1960), exhibitions on the company's history, and the private lives of prominent figures in the early history of the company, including Sir Allen Lane, Eunice Frost and Betty Radice.  It also includes a large collection of Penguin books from 1935 to date.

The Penguin Archive Project, a four-year project begun in May 2008 with a grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), aims to produce an on-line catalogue of the Penguin Collection, which will be launched on the web in due course and will continue to expand as the project develops.

The project will also pioneer research in the archive, particularly in the areas of modern poetry, Penguin 'specials' and their socio-political impact, and Penguin translations of the classics.

Penguin, Puffin and the Paperback Revolution will be broadcast on Thursday 2 September at 11.30 am on BBC Radio 4.

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