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I realized today that I wrote a post about George Orwell’s Diaries (Horror interrupted by gardening, 26 July 2012) and neglected to mention or display one of my favorite notebooks, the Penguin Books Nineteen Eighty-Four notebook.


I bought this notebook in London. I have always loved 1984; it has one of the best opening lines in literature, in my opinion:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

I have since read all of George Orwell’s novels and even though Animal Farm is standard issue and required study in most high schools in Canada, I think 1984 is far superior. And to be honest, Keep the Asphidistra Flying is even better.

Anyway, I was and am still delighted with this notebook. I love the vintage Penguin cover. I was hoping for some quotes from the novel but it is a blank book, essentially.


Here is the inside front cover, left. “Ex Libris….If found please return to…”


Here is the opposite page. I must have taken a dozen shots of this page; this one is the least blurry. Oh and the post-it markers are my own.

The paper is thin, feels a lot like newsprint. Both sides are lined.


For me the best bit is the back cover.


It says:

He just wanted a decent book to read…

Not too much to ask, is it? It was in 1935 that Allen Lane, Managing Director of Bodley Head Publishers, stood on a platform at Exeter railway station looking for something good to read on his journey back to London. His choice was limited to popular magazines and poor-quality paperbacks – the same choice faced every day by the vast majority of readers, few of whom could afford hardbacks. Lane’s disappointment and subsequent anger at the range of books generally available led him to found a company – and change the world.

“We believed in the existence in this country of a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price, and staked everything on it.” Sir Allen Lane, 1902 – 1970, founder of Penguin Books.

He wanted a “dignified but flippant” symbol for his new business. His secretary suggested a Penguin and another employee was sent to London Zoo to make some sketches. Seventy years later Penguin is still one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

The quality paperback had arrived – and not just in bookstores. Lane was adamant that his Penguins should appear in chain stores and tobacconists, and should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes. 

Reading habits (and cigarette prices) have changed since 1935, but Penguin still believes in publishing the best books for everyone to enjoy.

Love it!

And if you want to read more about Penguin and Sir Allen Lane, here is an excellent article from The Independent (try to disregard the repeating introductory paragraph): http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/the-man-who-was-penguin-6147077.html