This lovely Penguin wrapping paper confuses me…

I have had a sheet of this wrapping paper on the wall of my work cube for some months now and something occurred to me recently.

The titles and authors on the spines of these early Penguins run vertically up the spine rather than down the spine. I have a whole library of books, and with the exception of one Russian/English copy of Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis that I found in Prague, none of them have the titles going up rather than down.

Were all the early Penguins like this? When did they change? Who can enlighten me?


(Sorry for the poor image quality.)

12 thoughts on “This lovely Penguin wrapping paper confuses me…

  1. Hannah Stoneham June 22, 2010 / 7:12 am

    How observant you are – a sign of a fine detective. i am sorry that I can't asnwer any of the questions though


  2. Susan in TX June 22, 2010 / 9:26 am

    Not even photographic “flipping” would explain that one.. It will be interesting to see if anyone knows.


  3. A Bookish Space June 22, 2010 / 3:00 pm

    I actually just noticed this yesterday when I was taking a photo of some of my recent purchases – would love to see if anyone knows why this is.


  4. Pigtown-Design June 22, 2010 / 4:13 pm

    I think that european books do the spine titles differently than american publishers.


  5. Thomas at My Porch June 22, 2010 / 5:25 pm

    Hannah: Well, not that observant, it took me a while to notice.

    Susan: Yes, photo flipping would putting the penguin on his head.

    A Bookish Space: Maybe someone will enlighten us.

    Pigtown: Thanks for stopping by. I have tons of UK editions from Penguin and other publishers and none of them go up rather than down. Unless these were Penguins printed for the Continent?


  6. Ash June 22, 2010 / 6:00 pm

    I have never noticed that about the spines of books. So of course I don't have an answer to your question, but I am jealous of the paper!


  7. irisonbooks June 25, 2010 / 4:53 am

    I can't give you an answer, but I do know that I would love receiving a gift in such wrapping paper. I'm not sure if I would be comfortable with folding it or tearing it to unwrap a gift though.


  8. Paperback Reader June 25, 2010 / 11:03 am

    It's something I have noticed (possibly on the paper) and think it extends to some of the older Penguins I have seen in second-hand bookshops. A quick scan of my bookshelves me tells me that it doesn't seem to apply to any I own so can't illuminate you in regards to timing.


  9. Thomas at My Porch June 28, 2010 / 12:33 am

    Ash: I actually got it at an English bookstore in The Hague. I couldn't pass it up.

    Iris: I don't think I could bring myself to use it as wrapping paper.

    Claire: Maybe the answer could be found in one of my books about Penguin.


  10. bookssnob June 28, 2010 / 10:07 am

    I will check my old penguins for you when I get home Thomas!


  11. bookssnob June 30, 2010 / 6:18 pm

    Hi Thomas,

    I just remembered I promised to check my Penguins! I have a fair few old orange striped ones – the oldest is 1946 and the newest is 1955 – and they all read with the spines going upwards. I have a vertically stripy orange Penguin with a picture on the front (Noblesse Oblige) from 1960 and that reads with the spine going down. So some time between 1955 and 1960 – I suspect with the change from the orange horizontal to the orange vertical striped covers (if that makes sense – the ones that are still orange striped but the stripes are downwards and there is a pictorial image on them rather than the plain ones with just the title on)- the spines were flipped to read down rather than up. All of mine were printed in the UK.


  12. Thomas at My Porch July 2, 2010 / 8:49 am

    Book Snob: Great Detective work narrowing it down to a five-year window. Thanks for that.


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