Company History

A unique publishing company ...

"A paperback reprint for only sixpence? The project is impractical - it's impossible." So thought the publishing world when the first 10 Penguins made their debut in British bookshops, bookstalls and branches of Woolworths on 30 July, 1935. Could anyone make a profit out of a book that cost no more than 10 cigarettes? The young Allen Lane, then the rebellious Managing Director of Bodley Head, thought he could by the mass-production and mass-distribution of "intelligent books for intelligent people" at a price everyone could afford - and in the economic recession of the early thirties, few could dream of building their own libraries when the average price of a hardback novel was 7/6d.

Allen Lane was right. To the astonishment of journalists, publishers and booksellers, he sold a million Penguins within six months. Nor was this to be a passing craze, but the advent of a paperback movement on a scale that would create a revolution in reading habits all over the world.

Two of the company's most famous names were launched in the 1940s. Puffin was born in 1940 as a series of non-fiction picture books for children. They proved to be such a great success that Puffin started publishing fiction the following year, with Worzel Gummidge among its first titles. In 1946, Penguin Classics were launched with E. V. Rieu's translation of The Odyssey, making classic texts available to everyone. Today this world famous series consists of more than 1,200 titles (including Penguin Modern Classics), ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The 1960s brought a revolution in popular culture and Penguin was at the forefront. The company was charged under the Obscene Publications Act in 1960 after publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Allen Lane died in 1970, and in the same year Penguin became a wholly owned subsidiary of Pearson Longman Ltd, now Pearson.

The 1980s brought more change and expansion for Penguin - it acquired Frederick Warne, best known for its Beatrix Potter titles, in 1983, set up the Viking imprint in 1984, and bought the Michael Joseph and Hamish Hamilton book-publishing divisions in 1985.

Like every other period in the company's history, Penguin continued to publish controversial books throughout the 1980s, including Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

On 10 May 2000, Pearson acquired Dorling Kindersley and DK became part of the Penguin Group.

On 1st July 2013 Penguin and Random House officially united to create Penguin Random House, the world’s first truly global trade book publisher.

...with a long history in New Zealand

Established as a book distributor in Auckland in 1973, just five years later Penguin Books NZ Ltd began publishing New Zealand Penguins written for local readers by New Zealand authors. 

Early Penguin New Zealand titles - The Kuia and the Spider (1982) by Patricia Grace and Robyn Kahukiwa; Penguin paperback editions of early fiction from Patricia Grace – Waiariki (1986) and Mutuwhenua (1986) – and Albert Wendt, Sons For the Return Home (1987), also all first published by Longman Paul; the controversial Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (1985) edited by Miriama Evans, Harvey McQueen and Ian Wedde, which caused much comment for its inclusion of poems printed first in Maori with the English translation alongside and Michael King’s Death of the Rainbow Warrior (1986), which went on to become an international bestseller.

We are proud to be the home to many bestselling and award-winning writers: Lloyd Jones, Maurice Gee, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Lynley Dodd, Bob Darroch, Margaret Mahy and Michael King are amongst many other household names.

On 1st July 2013 Penguin and Random House officially united to create Penguin Random House, the world’s first truly global trade book publisher.

Social Feed

{ }

Penguin TV

{ }