Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tolle et Lege, Ma'am

Along ths same lines as the earlier post:

Penguin Classics, the paperback volumes with the familiar black spine and the orange and black penguin logo, are known to generations of former students who struggled through Dickens and dozed through Henry James in school. While plenty of competitors also sell collections of classics, including Random House (Modern Library, Everyman's Library and Bantam Classics), Oxford University Press (World Classics), the Library of America and Barnes & Noble, arguably none is as instantly recognizable or as renowned as the Penguin Classics.

"It's hard to think of a rival," said Harold Bloom, the author, professor and literary critic who extolled his love of literature in "The Western Canon" and "How to Read and Why." "The Penguin collection has enormous range and comprehensiveness."

Not since Penguin started the collection in 1946, however, has anyone been able to easily compile or purchase a complete set of the books, which range from ancient Greek poetry to the novels of Thomas Pynchon and include the complete works of Shakespeare, four translations of the "Iliad," 20 volumes each of the works of Henry James and Dickens. (The complete list can be found at by searching for "Penguin Classics Library.")

"We'd always wanted to sell them together, but it was always an issue of how could we sell all of the books in a single bookstore," said Tim McCall, Penguin's director of online sales and marketing, noting that most bookstores carry only a few hundred titles in the series. "Finally the Internet became mature enough to give us the ability to display all the books and to reach an audience out there that might want them."

Ms. Gursky's collection arrived in mid-September packed in 25 boxes, shrink-wrapped on a pallet and weighing nearly 700 pounds. Since then, Ms. Gursky has spent countless hours unpacking, shelving, categorizing, alphabetizing and rearranging the books. Oh, yes - and reading; she said she had completed more than 30 of the books in the last eight weeks. Even at that rather remarkable pace, it would take her about six years to make her way through the entire collection.

Using Books lists a few that aren't on the list.

You know I was reading about this and supposedly these puppies used to sell for only 30p, which is less than $1... talk about inflation.

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