These beautiful hardcover Penguin books were published between 1939 and 1959, and are commonly collected. King Penguins were Penguin’s first foray into hardcover books and colour printing, and the books originally combined a classic series of colour plates with an authoritative text.
The first two volumes featured sixteen plates from John Gould‘s The Birds of Great Britain (1873) with historical introduction and commentary on each plate by Phyllis Barclay-Smith, and sixteen plates from Redouté‘s Roses (1817–24) with historical introduction and commentary by John Ramsbottom. The third volume began the alternative practice of colour plates from a variety of sources.
Some of the volumes, such as Nikolaus Pevsner‘s Leaves of Southwell (1945) or Wilfrid Blunt‘s Tulipomania (1950) were pioneering works of scholarship. Others such as The Bayeux Tapestry by Eric Maclagan (1943), Ur : The First Phases by Leonard Woolley(1946) or Russian Icons (1947) by David Talbot Rice were distillations by experts of their own pioneering works. Some volumes by experts went into revised editions, such as A Book of English Clocks (1947 and 1950) by R. W. Symonds.
The series ran to 76 volumes, and this library features 36 unique titles!