Flowers of Marsh and Stream

Flowers of Marsh and Stream by Iola A Williams

Introduced by Anne Brichto of Addyman Books in Hay-on-Wye

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This Booksellers’s Breakfast is a celebration of design. The King Penguin books were a wonderful series that consistently kept an eye on every aspect of its design and content. The type and set out of the title pages were used to illustrate a chapter in a copy of the Thames and Hudson book on Typography and Book Design that we have at Addyman Books.

The natural history titles have some of the best covers – the colour and pattern of this flower book is almost perfect. I have paired it with a decorated green smoothie made with organic kiwi all smooth skinned from our health food shop, banana and kale on a Greek yoghurt base.

The coffee is hot and black and the flower is the last surviving white peony that came from Harp Cottage as a tight white ball.

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The first King Penguin ‘K1’ was published in November 1939 and sold for 1/-(one shilling) each. The series ended in 1959 after 76 volumes had been produced.

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The first in the King Penguin series: K1

Author: Phyllis Barclay-Smith
Colour Plates: John Gould
Contents: 16 colour plates; one black-and-white portrait in text
Date Published: 7 November 1939
Editor: Elizabeth Senior
Pages: 32pp. + 16pp.
Printer: Adprint Ltd and Henderson and Spalding Ltd
Price: 1/-

The inspiration for the King Penguin series, which was acknowledged by Allen Lane, came from the books published by the German publisher Insel. In an article about the Penguin Modern Painters, Lane said: ‘The aim of the King Penguin is different. These have not been planned to coincide with the public’s growing appreciation of art, but rather to appeal to the general liking for illustrated keepsakes of special projects. For this reason they are specialised …’.

The original idea for King Penguins came from the small Insel-Verlag books which were published in Germany before the war, an example of which is shown here:


Penguin felt there could be a similar series in the UK. The experiment, started a few weeks after war broke out, turned out to be successful. One of the most distinctive features of this series is their decorative covers.





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