It’ssss my Birthday …

by Kieran Healy on March 12, 2007

And I got this cool present:

Penguin 60s

These are Penguin 60s, the original (orange) series and the Classics, which Penguin brought out in 1995 for their 60th anniversary. (They recently issued a similar series for their 70th, though not in the United States.) When they came out I really wanted the Classics collection, but had no money. I remember there was a certain amount of snotty declensionist commentary on the sort of people who would only spend 60p for excerpts of Civilization rather than reading the originals entire. Well, you can always have The Complete Penguin Classics delivered to your house for a mere $7,989.50 (don’t worry, shipping is free). About 750lbs worth and 77 linear feet of shelving, apparently — according to an Amazon reviewer who actually bought it. If you’re not up to that, just take The American Collection or the 19th Century British Collection instead, which are a bit cheaper.



C. L. K. Aqurette 03.12.07 at 4:08 am

It seems that every time I ask my friends if they have seen a particularly TV series, someone will reply, “I have the box.” Now, if I predict the future, I see that people soon will say the same things about novels:

“Have you read that family saga by Cao Xueqin?”
“I have the box.”

Congratulations on your birthday, by the way.


sara 03.12.07 at 4:35 am

Penguin has started to publish its classical (Greek and Roman) authors with full citation numbers, for which the impoverished classicist is grateful. Most people can’t afford the entire set of the Loeb Classical Library, or have the time to read everything in the original, e.g. at the Latin Library.


Gene O'Grady 03.12.07 at 5:50 am

You could probably get most significant classical literature in Oxford Classical Texts for a lot less than you could buy the whole LCL (and do you really need all of Strabo, or any of Manetho?) and, with the exception of the recently revised volumes like Hesiod and Euripides, you’d have far better texts in a far more attractive format.

And even if you bought all the Penguins, you wouldn’t get the out of print stuff like Sophocles’ Icheutae.

And here’s wishing that the Loeb’s were in as nice volumes as the I Tatti Library. Now there’s something to be grateful for!

I will say that one of the best presents I ever gave my kids was the Penguin orange edition of Franklin Roosevelt talks.


John Emerson 03.12.07 at 10:33 am

From my youth I also remember the Pelicans, which seem to have disappeared. I remember being intimidated by the long row of drab, essential-identical color-coded books in the bookstore. Nowadays they’re much brighter. The cover of “Discourse on Method” shows Descartes learing at a Swedish princess (not Christina, but the blonde one). One edition “Beyond Good and Evil” even has a (tasteful, rather post-coital and glum-looking) nude woman on the cover, though I’m not completely sure that’s Penguin.


CJCJC 03.12.07 at 12:04 pm

They look lovely.

Alas it’s £8000 from amazon uk rather than $8000!!


aretino 03.12.07 at 5:41 pm

About a dozen years ago, my wife overheard a conversation about a warehouse sale of Penguin discards. They were new with slightly clipped covers. We went. It was $5 for all you could carry. We took about 200, including almost 100 classics and 30 modern classics.


Gene O'Grady 03.12.07 at 8:08 pm

Aretino’s story reminds me of the brief period when Penguin Classics were coming in hardbound editions (for the American library market as I recall). I bought a whole pile of them (Betty Radice’s excellent Terence among them) for not very much.

And if it won’t utterly confirm my reputation for pedantry, I should note that I mispelled Ichneutae above.


roy edroso 03.12.07 at 8:19 pm

Did you note this review? Since the books were a gift, you might invest the money you saved in a book humidor.


vivian 03.13.07 at 1:58 am

Aretino, I remember freshman year learning the hard way that “all I could carry for $2” when I left the library was not the same as “all I could carry” by the time I was most of the mile to my dorm. They were hardbacks though.


eszter 03.13.07 at 6:46 am

Happy Birthday!

Ten years ago you wouldn’t have had the shelf space anyway.


Henry (not the famous one) 03.13.07 at 9:33 am

Then there was the time that the Prince of Wales asked his valet to buy him six yards of red books and six yards of blue ones. You guess which Prince.
And is this the appropriate time to mention Myles na gCopaleen’s Buchhandlung Service Extraordinaire? Of course it is, it always is.


Invig 03.13.07 at 10:54 am

How can you afford that? Are you wealthy?

I thought bloggers were all poor…

Maybe that’s just me.


Katherine 03.13.07 at 12:20 pm

Well, there is an Amazon UK version which costs less than £8000 – it appears to be 1300 “Classics” for about £5k or so:


Katherine 03.13.07 at 12:20 pm

Okay, I’m talking utter rubbish – it is in fact £8k – I was looking at the “you save” figure. Good job I don’t have £8k spare.


motordoc 03.13.07 at 3:39 pm

Beats google book search. I wish the major publishers of classics would return to the old three-volume format. Easier on the biceps on the subway.


RETARDO 03.14.07 at 1:37 am

I wish these were made as well as the old Pelicans Zizka mentions, which were as near-indestructable as a paperback can be. Still, they look nice, and are especially impressive in mass. Congratulations.

I’ve been lucky at library sales in Memphis to get a few of the new PCs rebound as hardbacks (but keeping their original cover design).

I have several of the first series of PC with the black covers, and the paper is pretty awful (my Suetonius won’t last much longer), but the new ones like you have seem to be made from much better stock.


"As You Know" Bob 03.14.07 at 7:21 am

As one book lover to another, congratulations.

I recall that there were two sets of 60 issued in the States, two different sets of 60 in the UK, and at least one set of 60 (possibly different yet again?) issued in Australia. In the States, they were remaindered pretty quickly – I bought a bunch of them for a quarter apiece.

Where did you get yours? (Do you have a link?)


nick s 03.14.07 at 1:29 pm

I got the Classic 60s set at the time, though it’s stuck in my back-home book collection. I’ve also got a few Pelicans in boxes, which I acquired randomly, and remember thinking them to be chewy books.

As for classical texts, a good friend took me on a tour of the (now-replaced-by-the-cafe) Latin/Greek section of the Oxford Book Tardis, pointing out which texts were best served by the lovely owl-faced Les Belles Lettres editions, and which ones were best in the egg-blue German ones (Reclam?).

I wish the major publishers of classics would return to the old three-volume format. Easier on the biceps on the subway.

The high-falutin’ French publishers still do that, though they ain’t cheap. But when you’re not fussed about a definitive text or front/back-matter, those little India-paper Oxford hardbacks are hard to beat.

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