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Penguin 75

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Jaša Pipan


The exhibition of the best 75 book covers from the past decade on display in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The saying that books are our best friends is about as ancient as the books themselves. It seems that even the Romans already knew the beneficiary effect that reading books will have on generations yet to come.

Rare are the joys that can compare to holding a yet unopened book, smelling the paper, admiring the words, gently cracking the spine (unless you, like yours truly, think it's a sin to do that) and getting ready for a cosy couple of hours that will take you to a world beyond reality. But so far, nothing has yet been told about the actual content of the book and for the purpose of this article, nothing will be: the initial pleasure in getting to know a book comes from the way the book is presented to the potential reader. This is also the idea behind the »Penguin 75« exhibition that opened on November 23 in the Vžigalica Gallery in Ljubljana. The exhibition was produced by the and and was prepared to commemorate both the 75th anniversary of Penguin Books publishing house and the year 2010 when Ljubljana holds the title.

Emzin InstitutePenguin Group USAWorld Book Capital

For this opportunity Paul Buckley, the creative director of the publishing house, chose 75 of the best covers from the past decade and explored the designer's process beneath each and every one of these covers. He then explained it to the public the way book lovers will best be able to understand the psychological and creational processes – by uniting them into a book called and then presenting it to us with the aforementioned exhibition.

Penguin75_1“Penguin 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the Good, the Bad...)”

The exhibition is like a dialogue between the author, the designer and the publishing house that seems to be unfolding before our very eyes as we discover the story beneath every one of the displayed covers. When discovering the designing process of the covers we realise that the saying “never judge a book by its cover” is, even though it may be well applied in everyday life, useless when it comes to actual books. How many of you have already bought an edition of a novel from a particular publishing house and not from another one purely because you were attracted to its appearance? The exhibition is based on the supposition that even though the author is solely responsible for the success of his story, the design of the cover of his book can help increase its success. This supposition is explored further by explanations of authors such as Hanif Kureishi, Elizabeth Gilbert and Art Spiegelman. Exhibition features several different Penguin Books imprints among which are also the “Penguin Ink” imprint, featuring the cooperation of designers with noted American tattoo artists, and “Couture Classics” imprint where covers of “Pride and Prejudice”, “Wuthering Heights” and “The Scarlett Letter” were designed by the world renowned painter and sculptor Ruben Toledo.  


But there’s so much more to discover, so if you would like to know why the horse on the cover of “Marquis de Sade” got castrated, where the designer of the “Londonstani” cover got his inspiration from or how to know whether the designer actually likes the author whose book cover he was designing, you are going to have to visit the exhibition yourself – you’ve got until December 15. After visiting the exhibition, I wandered the streets of the pre-holiday Ljubljana for a while and found myself in a bookshop. I left it with the Penguin Group edition of Jane Austen’s “Emma”. It was the first one I plucked out of the pile of many different editions of the same book and even though I carefully examined the others as well, none of them attracted my attention quite as much as this one. And seems to be the theory behind all of what’s said above put to practice.


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