Penguin published Evelyn Waugh in a standard format from 1937 to 1955. That is, a white horizontal band between two orange horizontal bands. 'Penguin Books' being written in the top orange band, a penguin motif appearing in the bottom orange band, and the author and title in the middle white band. Ah, but I've forgotten a golden rule of communication: show don't tell:


On other pages online I've attempted to tell the whole story of
Decline and Fall and Scoop covers in Penguin. But instead of extending that to another individual Waugh title, for the moment I'm going straight to an overview of the classic/orange 1937-1955 period, as summarised by this table. This essay essentially consists of the numbered notes which follow the table.

Penguin Waugh

Decline and Fall was the first Waugh novel to be published in Penguin, title number 75. The 1937 edition having the word 'Bodley Head' running vertically where later the word 'Fiction' would run.


Early Penguins (up to number 80) were published by that company, which Allen Lane had inherited. After its success, he and his brothers set up Penguin Books Ltd, and the category of book replaced the old parent’s name on the front covers.

2. In 1937 and 1938, Waugh's first three novels were published in Penguin. The paperbacks had dust-jackets which were also used in the 1939 editions of
Decline and Fall and Black Mischief. The jackets being exactly the same design as the actual book cover.


3. The 1939 edition of
Decline and Fall is particular aesthetically satisfying, to my eye. It features a less pillow-like penguin and the eighty-year-old cover is protected by a dust-jacket. I do not think the 1940 edition had a dust-jacket. The war meant there was a shortage of paper and book production was cut back. Dust-jackets for Penguin paperbacks rarely returned, never in the Waugh titles.


4. If you look back at the table, you'll see that there was no publishing program for Evelyn Waugh in Penguin during 1941 and 1942. (Waugh himself had been through action that would lead a decade later to
Men at Arms; and in late 1941 he had written Put Out More Flags on the way back to Britain on a troop ship sailing around Africa.)

Scoop and Put Out More Flags were published in 1943 (titles 455 and 423, respectively). I can see that POMF in particular might have helped the war effort. And that A Handful of Dust (not published in Penguin until 1951) might have struck a self-indulgent note. Why look for adventure up the Amazon when it was all happening in Europe? A nice touch about these two is the posture of the wary bird on the cover. There was a war on, after all. That had to be acknowledged at all times.


These editions are more scarce. They were printed in smaller runs, because of paper shortage. Also, the paper and print quality were poor, and each book, in a time of shortage of all kinds of entertainment, was likely to pass through more hands. Eventually, many of these humble wartime Penguins would have been worn out and thrown away.

6. Paper shortages (and food rationing) carried on long after the war had finished. Penguin managed to publish
Scoop twice more, but apart from that they published nothing of Waugh in the seven years from 1944 to 1950.

7. In 1951, Penguin made a big marketing and publishing drive re Evelyn Waugh. Ten titles. All the fiction that Waugh had written until that time, plus
When the Going Was Good, a redaction of his pre-war travel writing. So five titles were published in Penguin for the first time in 1951: A Handful of Dust (at last), Brideshead Revisited (which had created a sensation in hardback in 1945), The Loved One (also a great success in hardback in 1948), When the Going Was Good and Work Suspended together with Scott-King's Modern Europe (this book contains the short stories from Mr Loveday's Little Outing as well). By this time, Penguin had published over 800 titles, Brideshead Revisited being number 821, A Handful of Dust 822 and Work Suspended, 824.

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Waugh was one of a select few authors accorded, to make a splash, a ‘Ten’ in the period 1946-65. The others were George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Agatha Christie (twice), Ngaio Marsh, D.H. Lawrence, Margaret Allingham, Carter Dickson, Georges Simenon (twice) and C.S. Forester.

When you analyse that list, you see how Evelyn Waugh was paid a huge compliment by Penguin. Wells and Shaw were classics from an earlier time. Five were crime novelists and Forester wrote about Horatio Hornblower of the navy. Leaving Lawrence and Waugh as the literary novelists of the day.

8. No difference to speak of between the design of the covers between 1939 (below, left) and 1951 (right). Adolf Hitler had tried his best to defeat Great Britain, but to no avail. British bulldog spirit, fair enough, but what about Penguin pluck?


Hmmm... perhaps Hitler would have claimed that his Third Reich brought the evolution of paperback cover design in Britain to a grinding halt.

9. In the next four years it was simply a matter of keeping the ten books in print, so all of the titles were reprinted at least once. However, change in design was on the horizon. In 1953
Edmund Campion was published, where the orange and white stripes of the cover were rendered vertical instead of horizontal.

This may have been because the book was non-fiction (but so was
When the Going was Good which got the horizontal treatment). But from 1956 onwards, whenever a title need reprinting, the vertical format was used and a whole aesthetic era was on the way out. The white middle band was much wider, the orange bands, narrow, leaving space in the middle of the cover for quote and image. But I should show rather than tell.

Careful when looking at the following images, so different are they to what has gone before!

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Uncle Theodore in
Scoop: "Change and decay in all around I see."

Thanks to Jeff Manley of the Evelyn Waugh Society and James Mackay of the Penguin Collectors Society for contributing to this page.