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The Penguin Classics Book

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The Penguin Classics Book is a reader's companion to the largest library of classic literature in the world. Spanning 4,000 years from the legends of Ancient Mesopotamia to the poetry of the First World War, with Greek tragedies, Icelandic sagas, Japanese epics and much more in between, it encompasses 500 authors and 1,200 books, bringing these to life with lively descripti The Penguin Classics Book is a reader's companion to the largest library of classic literature in the world. Spanning 4,000 years from the legends of Ancient Mesopotamia to the poetry of the First World War, with Greek tragedies, Icelandic sagas, Japanese epics and much more in between, it encompasses 500 authors and 1,200 books, bringing these to life with lively descriptions, literary connections and beautiful cover designs.


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The Penguin Classics Book is a reader's companion to the largest library of classic literature in the world. Spanning 4,000 years from the legends of Ancient Mesopotamia to the poetry of the First World War, with Greek tragedies, Icelandic sagas, Japanese epics and much more in between, it encompasses 500 authors and 1,200 books, bringing these to life with lively descripti The Penguin Classics Book is a reader's companion to the largest library of classic literature in the world. Spanning 4,000 years from the legends of Ancient Mesopotamia to the poetry of the First World War, with Greek tragedies, Icelandic sagas, Japanese epics and much more in between, it encompasses 500 authors and 1,200 books, bringing these to life with lively descriptions, literary connections and beautiful cover designs.

30 review for The Penguin Classics Book

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is an impressive book for several reasons. The book is huge at nearly 460 pages of high quality heavy paper the binding is a cloth bound hard cover with sumptuously illustrated pages of classic Penguin books. The book itself has a wealth of information in it - from the history of Penguin publishing to lesser know facts such as the explaining of the ISBN number system and how it breaks down in to individual packets of information about the book to the explanation of the original book cover c This is an impressive book for several reasons. The book is huge at nearly 460 pages of high quality heavy paper the binding is a cloth bound hard cover with sumptuously illustrated pages of classic Penguin books. The book itself has a wealth of information in it - from the history of Penguin publishing to lesser know facts such as the explaining of the ISBN number system and how it breaks down in to individual packets of information about the book to the explanation of the original book cover colours. There is also a fascinating section on the imprints of Penguin some of which I knew and others I most certainly did not. The book itself is broken in to different chapters - covering such topics as geography and ages. Within each chapter they have sections (varying from a single entry to several pages) on the key authors and their most important works. Now many of these I knew about but a lot more I didn't realise their significance to Penguin and the book community. Each entry has a short bio of the author as well as a paragraph about the book - what you would expect if you were reading the back of the book itself. In short a great abridged trip through the classics of Penguin and brief showcase of what Penguin publishing has brought to the masses. There are many stories about how Penguin publishing came about and what their were trying to achieve, this book shows that not only did they achieve this but surpassed in it so many ways.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    I bought this for myself as a celebratory present after the US midterm elections, which doesn't make a lot of sense because it's not like I was singlehandedly responsible for the midterm results, but there you go. It's a handsome, heavy, clothbound compendium of (and companion to) the Penguin Classics imprint, beautifully illustrated with colour photographs throughout and including little essays and text boxes about the imprint's early days. E.V. Rieu (whose translation of The Odyssey was the fi I bought this for myself as a celebratory present after the US midterm elections, which doesn't make a lot of sense because it's not like I was singlehandedly responsible for the midterm results, but there you go. It's a handsome, heavy, clothbound compendium of (and companion to) the Penguin Classics imprint, beautifully illustrated with colour photographs throughout and including little essays and text boxes about the imprint's early days. E.V. Rieu (whose translation of The Odyssey was the first Penguin Classic ever) edited it for a long time, as did Betty Radice, who seems to have been both marvelously clever and quite wonderful as a person. Little notes on each entry provide pieces of trivia about translators, many of whom were the sort of eccentric academic types that only English intellectual society in the twentieth century could have created and sustained. It'll also remind you of how much there is in the way of world literature; the texts from antique and medieval Asia, in particular, were often new to me. There are a couple of awkward typos (along the lines of "weak" instead of "week"), which shouldn't exist at all in a book where so much design effort has clearly been put in, but the production of the object on the whole is first-class. I spent an extremely happy rainy weekend on the sofa with this beast, and if you're a nerd, you should too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Crane

    For those who grew up with the distinctive colour-coded covers and elegant roundels of E. V. Rieu’s early Penguin Classics, Henry Eliot’s celebration of flightless bibliomania will evoke Proustian memories. Caesar's “The Conquest of Gaul “(L22, 1951, decked in imperial purple) will always be for me the crib smuggled into “Bolshie” Brown’s grim Latin lessons in Kirkcaldy High School; and the two volumes of “The Brothers Karamazov”* (L78/9, 1958), are impregnated with the whiff of Tilley lamp oil For those who grew up with the distinctive colour-coded covers and elegant roundels of E. V. Rieu’s early Penguin Classics, Henry Eliot’s celebration of flightless bibliomania will evoke Proustian memories. Caesar's “The Conquest of Gaul “(L22, 1951, decked in imperial purple) will always be for me the crib smuggled into “Bolshie” Brown’s grim Latin lessons in Kirkcaldy High School; and the two volumes of “The Brothers Karamazov”* (L78/9, 1958), are impregnated with the whiff of Tilley lamp oil spilled onto them during a family holiday in the Orkneys, camping out in the empty Longhope manse on Hoy. * No, illiterate Spellchecker, I did not mean “Kalamazoo”. Penguin Classics have undergone faster evolutionary changes than have the birds. The first volume, Rieu’s prose translation of Homer’s “Odyssey”, provided for those with no Greek an entry to “the classics” - highlights of Greek or Roman literature. Their scope quickly extended to all European languages, including the controversial Nevill Coghill translation of bawdy Chaucerian Middle English into 20th century Queen’s English. Before the roundels and colour coding were abandoned, the scope had already widened to include a few non-European classics (translated from Arabic, Sanskrit and Chinese). Transformative change started in 1963 with Germano Facetti’s introduction of uniform black spines and photographed artworks on the covers. Then the category “classics” was reinterpreted to cover key works of the natural and social sciences as well as literature; and in all languages, not just translations. In principle, this made the series global, though the inclusion of English-language classics gave the series a numerical bias towards Anglo-Saxon attitudes. However, Eliot's arrangement of his guide to the entire series into chapters that group together works from specific historical periods and/or different geographical/cultural areas has the huge advantage of revealing the gaps which remain to be filled. The series now aspires to being a global library, with this book as its richly illustrated catalogue. By the time Penguin Books celebrate their centenary in 2035 we will be able to judge definitively whether this flightless bird has become our way to travel to all Earth's written cultures, turning the Tower of Babel into a 21st century wonder, the Library of Alexandria reborn. The 2035 edition of this treasure-trove will be an even fatter Penguin, especially if it were also to cover those titles – not included here - which already enjoy the status of Penguin Modern Classics or Puffin Classics.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I first engaged with the Penguin Classics imprint in the second half of my teens when I started reading Thomas Hardy, as a result of an English lesson that used a passage from The Woodlanders, describing fallen leaves - thanks, Mr. Bray! (He was one of those teachers who was better the more enthusiasm or talent you displayed - no good for the recalcitrant or below average.) Anyway, I was delighted one day when I saw a flimsy paperback that turned out to be a catalogue for the series, including t I first engaged with the Penguin Classics imprint in the second half of my teens when I started reading Thomas Hardy, as a result of an English lesson that used a passage from The Woodlanders, describing fallen leaves - thanks, Mr. Bray! (He was one of those teachers who was better the more enthusiasm or talent you displayed - no good for the recalcitrant or below average.) Anyway, I was delighted one day when I saw a flimsy paperback that turned out to be a catalogue for the series, including the Modern Classics, too - being handed out for free! Of course I took one and used it for reading inspiration. I still have it, decades later! Now, the imprint has a new print catalogue - a large format hardback of over 400p, with the Modern Classics to get their own separate volume - costing £30. The lsit has expanded an enormous amount since the '80s! Is it worth it? After all, a constantly updated listing is available online for free. Well, for me the answer is a resounding, yes! This isn't simply a list of books in print. As well as short descriptions of each book, there are micro-biographies of the authors and sidebars about the history of Penguin Classics and biographies and anecdotes about editors and translators who have worked on the series. There's even a page explaining ISBNs and their origins. Did you know that the first three digits of a bar code are a geographical origin code? Since books are fundamentally international, they have their own code, known as "bookland" - which is why ISBN13s all start "978" or "979." I love that books have their own country! The Penguin Classics remit is gigantic; the classics of world literature up to and including WWI - thousands of years. The book therefore stands as a guide to the world of books that are still considered important/great/interesting/entertaining after at least 100 years. It shows up some of the impacts of world history just by charting how much (or little) material came from where and when. The list has not been sniffy about genre, at least as far back as the '80s, by the way. It has changed constantly (not just growing) - books have gone out of print, been replaced with new translations, expanded, split up into multiple volumes, conflated into fewer volumes, so I expect this volume was out of date by the time it went on sale, but that in no way detracts from its value to me as a ready reference and source of inspiration.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Absolutely loved this one. I highly recommend it to classic book lovers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Owen Hatherley

    A catalogue more than actual book but very enjoyable; must have been miserable to write.

  7. 4 out of 5

    lauren

    i didn’t read this in its entirety, but went through every page. found so many classics i’m dying to read. such a good book, definitely worth the money imo

  8. 5 out of 5

    Louise Bentley

    Like a massive catalogue of amazing 📚

  9. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    As a book lover and a collection development librarian, I found it fun and useful to browse through this and make notes about classics that might have fallen out of my library's collection. While there could be a lot more depth (and more information about some of the best titles), this is a real testament to the breadth of work covered by Penguin Classics over the years. Fans of cover art will also find this intriguing. As a book lover and a collection development librarian, I found it fun and useful to browse through this and make notes about classics that might have fallen out of my library's collection. While there could be a lot more depth (and more information about some of the best titles), this is a real testament to the breadth of work covered by Penguin Classics over the years. Fans of cover art will also find this intriguing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Isles

    I grew up with Penguin Classics, especially the Greek and Latin ones, but the series and its offshoots has grown to include all the world's great literature. Here we have a complete listing of every one of the volumes, with a description of each and a reproduction of at least one version of its cover, accompanied by frequent amusing anecdotes, and attractively hardbound. Well done! I grew up with Penguin Classics, especially the Greek and Latin ones, but the series and its offshoots has grown to include all the world's great literature. Here we have a complete listing of every one of the volumes, with a description of each and a reproduction of at least one version of its cover, accompanied by frequent amusing anecdotes, and attractively hardbound. Well done!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Graham Smith

    So far I've only had chance to read a few pages of this amazing book. I've flipped through a few pages detailing my favourite books and authors, but wow already a 5*+ book in my eyes. Love it! So far I've only had chance to read a few pages of this amazing book. I've flipped through a few pages detailing my favourite books and authors, but wow already a 5*+ book in my eyes. Love it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    "This book is intended as a reader’s companion to the best books ever written. It is a book of suggestions and recommendations, drawing connections across the history of world literature, which will hopefully reacquaint you with old friends, introduce you to new titles, and suggest ways to map your future reading. It is also a celebration of an abiding series of books, which began more than seventy years ago and has grown incrementally and idiosyncratically ever since." This book is pretty amazin "This book is intended as a reader’s companion to the best books ever written. It is a book of suggestions and recommendations, drawing connections across the history of world literature, which will hopefully reacquaint you with old friends, introduce you to new titles, and suggest ways to map your future reading. It is also a celebration of an abiding series of books, which began more than seventy years ago and has grown incrementally and idiosyncratically ever since." This book is pretty amazing. It’s not one that you can really sit down and read from start to finish, as it’s more of an encyclopedia/reference book, but it’s incredible and really fun to peruse (and read over time). It’s also a great way to beef up your TBR!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This compendium of images and information derived from the large collection of Penguin Classics is a wonderful and engaging book that will be welcomed by so many readers, students and teachers of literature, and those with an interest in publishing or collecting books. It is a celebration of the authors and their books that have been accorded the status of Penguin Classics, a statement of what literature have cultural signficance, and a salute to one of the great publishers of the modern world. This compendium of images and information derived from the large collection of Penguin Classics is a wonderful and engaging book that will be welcomed by so many readers, students and teachers of literature, and those with an interest in publishing or collecting books. It is a celebration of the authors and their books that have been accorded the status of Penguin Classics, a statement of what literature have cultural signficance, and a salute to one of the great publishers of the modern world. Oh, and it might also arouse some nostalgia for anyone who, for example, has wended their way through the Graves translation of Seutonius or any number of other non-English books rendered into an understandable text. Like so many quality titles of its ilk 'The Penguin Classics Book' is a finely wrought balance of the author's words and the images, combining to form an exceedingly well constructed and holistic presentation of its content. The cover photos demonstrate not just the imagination of the editors and publishers associated with Penguin Classics, they also show how the books have an artistic and cultural unity. Very few of illustrations are out of place or jarring; they are works of art in and of themselves. However the covers need the text (and vice versa), so it is gratifying to have such learned and entertaining material about each book, author and/or translator as provided by Eliot. Whilst the text is a relatively cursory summary of the publications, no title, no writer nor translator is left without the right level of engagement. The reader is encouraged through Eliot's summaries to read those titles that provoke his interest, or perhaps re-evaluate those already digested. The intermittent sprinkling of trivia throughout the book also makes this publication an enjoyable read. Ultimately this book deserves the rating I have given it because it encapsulates the breadth and depth of so many people's cultural and intellectual identity. Since I was a senior high school student copies of Penguin Classics have never been too far away from my desk, my bed, my class room, my university library. They are a touchstone in my life, and 'The Penguin Classics Book' is a reminder of how much I love the titles that have taught me so much.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    An amazing resource for book nerds. I bought this because I'm interested in the history of book design and wanted to see the progression of iconic Penguin covers. It's got that, and tons more besides. For example, I've been wanting to get into Classical literature for a while, but feeling completely at a loss for where to start. The chapter on Greek Myths really piqued my interest and gave me lots of pointers for key texts. I also really appreciated the sections on world literature (including As An amazing resource for book nerds. I bought this because I'm interested in the history of book design and wanted to see the progression of iconic Penguin covers. It's got that, and tons more besides. For example, I've been wanting to get into Classical literature for a while, but feeling completely at a loss for where to start. The chapter on Greek Myths really piqued my interest and gave me lots of pointers for key texts. I also really appreciated the sections on world literature (including Asian and African classics) so that it's not only focused on Western literature. Penguin have just released a companion Modern Classics Book and I'll absolutely be investing in a copy of that too.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    Books about books is one of my favorite genres. And this is a master class. The quote on the book says it all. “There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?” said Mr. Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling. “A great number, sir,” replied Oliver; “I never saw so many.” “You shall read them if you behave well,” said the old gentleman kindly; “and you will like that, better than looking at the outsides, - that is, in s Books about books is one of my favorite genres. And this is a master class. The quote on the book says it all. “There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?” said Mr. Brownlow, observing the curiosity with which Oliver surveyed the shelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling. “A great number, sir,” replied Oliver; “I never saw so many.” “You shall read them if you behave well,” said the old gentleman kindly; “and you will like that, better than looking at the outsides, - that is, in some cases, because there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carlton

    Browsed, as this is more a reference book to dip into than to read continuously, this is a joy for a reader of Penguin Classics since the 1980’s. Wonderful to see familiar old covers, read the brief descriptions and more interestingly the stories about the translation and publication of the books. Bookish social history! Penguin have a lovely introduction at https://www.penguinclassicsbook.co.uk/ Browsed, as this is more a reference book to dip into than to read continuously, this is a joy for a reader of Penguin Classics since the 1980’s. Wonderful to see familiar old covers, read the brief descriptions and more interestingly the stories about the translation and publication of the books. Bookish social history! Penguin have a lovely introduction at https://www.penguinclassicsbook.co.uk/

  17. 4 out of 5

    h

    This book is a treat, both visually and informatively. I respect Penguin as a publishing house, and this edition tells a good deal about the classics they've published. Which is also an enormous step in filling up the knowledge gaps. Waiting for the second part about the modern classics. This book is a treat, both visually and informatively. I respect Penguin as a publishing house, and this edition tells a good deal about the classics they've published. Which is also an enormous step in filling up the knowledge gaps. Waiting for the second part about the modern classics.

  18. 4 out of 5

    William

    Penguin classics represent the flower of British studies. This book catalogues the immense treasury of titles in the series. A must for book lovers.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shallowreader VaVeros

    Great read. Interesting that Australasia merits only one page despite the considerable influence of Richard Lane.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laila Bvlgari

    The Penguin Classics is the best book for those who are new into learning English and looking for easy uncomplicated English Reading Challenge .

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nathalie

    What an amazing, interesting and educational book! Such a beautiful book too, which is a nice bonus :) because of this book, my to buy list of books has grown a lot!

  22. 5 out of 5

    L A

    It's a book about books and it is AMAZING It's a book about books and it is AMAZING

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laila Bvlgari

    The Penguin Classics is the best book for those who are new into learning English and looking for easy uncomplicated English Reading Challenge .

  24. 4 out of 5

    Antara

    I am a most ardent lover of classics ;) And so, this book was like opening a treasure chest and picking gems from all corners of the globe - I will be revisiting this miscellany often.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fkupfer Kupfer

    Simply wonderful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    drew

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Purdie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Han

  29. 4 out of 5

    Syamsul Maarif

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda

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