Sunday, 9 September 2012

Exciting South American Penguin Find

Continuing our Buenos Aires, Argentina adventure today Tom and I decided to try out the subway near our hotel to head over to the Ricoleta area and large cemetery where Eva Peron is buried. There is also a very large market near the church and cemetery that is supposed to have many local crafts and we thought we could pick up souvenirs there.

The subway was very easy and cheap to use and we were in the area in no time. We still had to walk quite a few blocks and as the weather is beautiful and warm today we didn't mind that at all.

Buenos Aires is described as the Paris of the Southern Hemisphere and it really is a beautiful city.

Just as we were preparing to cross the last street, with the large cemetery walls in view we stumbled across a book shop of second hand books.  I stopped so suddenly that Tom almost knocked us over by bumping into me. It was just an involuntary reflex that he is becoming more and more used to as we travel.

 We went in and I had a quick look around and was about to leave as everything was in Spanish. I decided to ask the owner if they had English books. "Ingish?" I said, "Downstairs" he replied.  I stuck my head out the front door where Tom decided he would wait and I said, "I am going downstairs, they have English books there."  Tom knew he might as well come in then and get comfortable.

I went down the staircase into a small room and written on the shelves was the word "Literature",  Only a Penguin collector knows the slight twitch one gets when being in a second hand English section of a book shop with the word 'Literature'  facing them.

I walked straight to the shelf and suddenly saw a very old Penguin logo.  It was the logo of the Penguin that looks as though he is dancing sideways. My heart stopped as I didn't recognise the binding of the book. It was not familiar. Also it was not in English. 

The spine was also a bit more than an inch thick which is also unusual. Penguins are generally thinner. I pulled it off the shelf and saw it was in Spanish. I also saw the number L 1 on the spine.

It turns out it is a copy of "PINGUINO: Breve Historia De La Literatura Inglesa" translated to "Penguin :  A Brief History of English Literature" by B. Ifor Evans. It was originally published by another publisher in the late 1800's but this first published copy was published by Penguin Books England in conjunction with Lautaro of Buenos Aires, Argentina Publisher.

It was published in 1947.  I was excited to find it because when I think what South America must have been like in 1947, with the conflict, coups and development of so many of the countries on this continent, I think it is wonderful that people, most likely academics would have a copy of this book that survived.

I am assuming the L 1 stands for Lautaro series and this is book 1.  I am really going to have to sit down and read all of the Penguin reference books I have at home and see if South America is mentioned anywhere. The book is only 246 pages long but the quality of paper is interesting. The paper pages are very thick  and it has browned quite evenly through most of the pages especially at the front and back of the book.  It also had a very browned index card tucked into it with the author's name typed on it and the name of the book and the publisher in Spanish as well as the date 1947 in brackets.

The cover is decorated in green and white diaganol stripes with a very old Penguin logo dancing facing to the right. The penguin logo on the title page is standing upright, head held high, facing to the left.

The whole book's binding is sewn with a thread that runs through it and exits into two threads inside the back cover page and the whole binding including those threads are glued down. A couple of the early pages are loose but nothing is missing.

If anyone reading this post knows of any other information regarding Penguin Book's history in South America, or about the series numbering, maybe how many there were I would certainly be interested.

It will certainly have a place of honour in my collection as long as I have it.  I plan on contacting the Penguin archives in England to see if they have a copy of it. I'd be happy to donate it to them if they don't.  I think it is a wonderful piece of Penguin history that people interested in vintage Penguin books might be interested in.

P.S. Eva Peron's cemetery photos will have to wait until another post. Penguin has place of honour in this one. Comments welcomed.

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