On the choosing of shelves

penguin books bookshelf advertisment

At risk of sounding like a 18th century scientific treatise (I wish) the choice of shelf is difficult thing. You rather need to know what is going on your shelves before you choose them.

Each day people find Shelf Appeal through searches for things to put on shelves. Or to be more specific: interesting things to put on a shelf, cute things to put on shelves, things to put in standing shelves, improve shelves that aren’t appealing, interesting things to put on a shelf, what to put on a shelf. No idea what they think when they get here, though.

I have my shelves of choice. But I rather like the idea of companies providing specific shelves designed to keep their products on or in. I like the thought of them thinking for you. The Isokon Penguin Donkey bookshelf wasn’t manufactured by Penguin. But it has been associated with them since it was designed by Egon Riss in 1939.

This leaflet from 1956 shows a different kind of Penguin bookshelf. It was manufactured by Beaver & Tapley Ltd. It came in a ‘thoroughly well made’ wall mounted or free-standing version and held about 150 Penguins. It’s really not in the same class as the Isokon number. In fact with those feet it is almost ugly. And it can’t be as rare – only 100 were made of the Donkey Mark I. But I’ve never seen one of these. A Google search reveals some have made it to eBay.

Still, I’m happy with this advertising insert. It was probably sent out tucked into a shiny new orange or green Penguin book. I do love the way the penguin proudly holds up his full Neatly-sectioned Small Library. Even if it seems to bear no resemblance to the bigger bookshelf pictured. After all, if a penguin can’t take liberties with his self-named bookshelf, who can?

penguin books bookshelf leaflet



Not seen that before. Not as sculptural as the Donkey, but imagine how satisfying having each cell filled with penguin books of the same colour, provided the length of the title fields on the spine match (it does vex me when they don’t). It would turn into a penguin noughts and crosses; will green win against orange, or maybe pitch green against pelican blue? Loads of abstract fun. I’ve got a collapsible bakelite bookshelf designed to house a set of 40s (Arthur Mee?) Encyclopedias. I think it was probably the 40s equivalent of the ring binder free with your first copy of the Unexplained. or maybe it was the prize when you completed the set? I’d rather have a Penguin endorsed bookshelf though.

shelf appeal

I’d rather have a Penguin endorsed bookshelf too. We’re such label (even if they are old fashioned) queens.

simon at easyontheeye

Be worth doing just to get their legal bods in a twist! The silence would be deafening. A shame Penguin don’t license out a bookcase today for the collectors. I still regret passing on a pair of vintage official Wade pottery Penguin bookends years ago at a fair…


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