Anyone who has spent time in second-hand bookshops will surely be familiar with Pelican books, with their distinctive blue spines and uniquely designed covers. An imprint of the famous Penguin publishing house, Pelican began in 1937 with the aim of producing inexpensive and accessibly-written non-fiction paperbacks on a variety of important topics.
Over 250 million Pelicans were sold, with the books being particularly popular among the self-educating post-war generation. In 1938 The Spectator commented that “If there is any sense in saying that the culture of the world should be accessible to all without distinctions of wealth, such publications are helping to make it true”.
Many key thinkers of the 20th century contributed texts to the range, including the historians Eric Hobsbawm and EP Thompson, Virginia Woolf, the economist JK Galbraith, sociologist Richard Hoggart, art critic John Berger and – the first Pelican author – literary polymath George Bernard Shaw. Sadly, Penguin discontinued the imprint in 1984.
Now, thirty years later, Pelican books are set to return, with the announcement of five new titles to be published in May 2014. This exciting news sent us searching for any Pelican titles among our collection – and we found over 100 belonging to the Information and Research department at the Central Library in Leeds city centre! A selection of these is now on display in a glass cabinet, so why not come along to see this slice of literary history for yourself? Most importantly, all these Pelican titles are available to borrow.