Penguin Books

Alec Spencer, MRes 2014-16 (part-time)

September 25th, 2014 by Alec Spencer | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Alec Spencer, MRes 2014-16 (part-time)
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Alec SpencerWhen I told my daughter I was about to embark on the MRes course, I commented that perhaps I was getting a bit too old to take on further study. She replied, as she always has done, in a supportive way reminding me of the quotation by Mahatma Gandhi “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”.  So here I am – at the start of a 27 month programme.

For those who know me they might think it a little strange to choose Publishing Studies as an interest. A life-time’s involvement with Prisons, Criminal Justice and Criminology has set me on a different path and I continue to be involved in a number of criminal justice areas – The Scottish Consortium for Crime and Criminal Justice (SCCCJ) and its thriving new e-publication under the management of Mary Munro ‘Scottish Justice Matters’; my commitment as an Honorary Professor at the School of Applied Social Science here at Stirling, and my work as a trustee of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. Incidentally, through my work as a Public Appointments Adviser for the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland, I have a fascinating insight into the demands and complexities of running Public Bodies in Scotland.

So where does my interest in publishing come from?  Apart from indexing a law book in my post-grad student days (first time round!), and authoring a book on sex offenders published by Jessica Kingsley, I have had little truck with the publishing industry … or so I supposed.

One hobby I did have, perhaps some would call it an obsession, was to collect Penguin books. I have done so since the late 1970’s and by the 1990’s had about 2,500 first editions (or Penguin first impressions) on shelves, but on moving house found their way into boxes. What to do with them? A conundrum. Keep or sell?  In the end, and somewhat reluctantly, I decided to sell. Selling on eBay involves photographing the books, and eventually I had swapped about half my books for a virtual collection – of images. It took a little imagination on my part, and some techy help from my son, to set up a web-site which now boasts over 6,200 entries and over 5,600 images. This ‘story’ can be found at the tab ‘About us’. Penguins have used wonderful designers to enhance their book covers – and the covers themselves are a separate area of interest and research.

Of course, ‘Penguin Books’, and Allen Lane its founder, is a marvellous exemplar of innovation and a revolution in publishing, which also was reflected in the process of social and educational change. These little paperback books are iconic and collectable. My interest has become a little less physical – I don’t need to own the books – and more reflective about why it is that individuals collect Penguin books, and not just specific genre or series – but sometimes the whole publishing house!  I started with this exploration in May 2014, when I visited Angus Mitchell, (interview) who donated his collection to Stirling University Library and I am looking forward to continuing on the journey of discovery about publishing and Penguin book collecting.

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Pick up a Penguin! for Book Week Scotland

November 20th, 2012 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Pick up a Penguin! for Book Week Scotland
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Thursday 29 November 2012, 11am-1pm

During Book Week Scotland, we bring you a rare opportunity to pick up a Penguin from the University of Stirling’s impressive collection of the famous publishing house’s books.

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication and an expert on 20th and 21st century publishing history, will lead the hands-on session. From the very first set of 10 books from 1935, to some of the earliest Puffins, Penguin Classics, Penguin Specials and Pevsner’s Architectural Guides, and books on yoga, car maintenance and vegetarian cookery, the collection demonstrates just how diverse a publisher Penguin has been – and why its recent merger with Random House is causing such consternation to the publishing industry.

The collection was donated by Dr Angus Mitchell, formerly Chair of the University Court and an avid Penguin collector.

Places are free, but must be booked in advance via the macrobert box office. The event is organised in collaboration with macrobert, who are also hosting a number of other events during Book Week Scotland.