Your nifty website of the day: James Pardey’s collection of the art of Penguin science fiction.
Penguin books and their iconic covers have a place in history that merits study and appreciation. They have influenced generations of readers and played an important role in our cultural heritage. Over the years new cover designs have appeared, and in the 1950s a transition took place from typographical to pictorial covers. This was followed by the introduction of a radically new cover design in the 1960s, and the launch of a Penguin science fiction series with covers featuring reproductions of abstract and surrealist art.
This curious linkage of modern art and sf is at the heart of this website, and is made all the more intriguing by the subtle and often ingenious connections between the artworks and the stories within. Following on from this, Penguin continued to publish sf as a number of mini-series, with covers that reveal the influence of Pop Art and to some extent Op Art. But to put these later developments in perspective it is necessary to go back to the first sf titles that Penguin published in the 1930s, for these early covers, now celebrated on a stamp, have come to be regarded as artworks in their own right.
Until recently the history of Penguin sf and its cover art has been largely overlooked. This website, along with a series of articles on the subject, attempts to rectify this. But what the articles convey with words this website does with images, and thereby offers what words cannot: over 150 Penguin sf covers, and the ability to trace their evolution at the click of a button, as titles were reprinted and different covers came and went. As such this website complements the articles, which focus more on the science fiction and its linkage to each book’s cover art. Here, however, it is the covers themselves that light the way along the multiple paths that weave through the history, and art, of Penguin sf.
One of the mentioned articles is available here; the others are forthcoming. Still, plenty of browsing pleasure to be had!