I've always felt a little uneasy about where the Penguin collection was being housed, as to live on a semi-rural bush block in Australia is to spend a large part of the year aware that someone may put everything you own at risk by deliberately setting the bush alight. There are days in late spring, summer and autumn when you can look out of the window and notice that the air has taken on an eerie golden hue, or you hear the helicopters flying overhead, which means that bushland somewhere close by is on fire. And though it has never reached nearer than the end of the road while we have lived here, the eucalypts around the house all bear evidence of the bushfire in 2001 which made it much closer. We are near enough to the denser housing to be certain of escaping ourselves, but no one will be waiting around while I attempt to rescue a few thousand books. And even worse, it could happen one day when I'm not at home to try.
But with the house being renovated, and hopefully put on the market soon, the opportunity was there to move the books to a new, if temporary, home. They now cover almost an entire wall, from floor to ceiling, of the bedroom of a rental in the suburbs. Even with a ladder I'm struggling to reach the top shelf of books, so I doubt I'll be reading the lower numbers any time soon, but it looks wonderful, and it really is the perfect sight to look upon first thing each morning.
And there are people I want to thank for sending me books and making life seem just a little more interesting. Someone I've never met gave me seven books last week in the most unexpected and delightful way. Some directions came via email, they led to a secluded location on the University campus, and there I found a well-hidden package bearing my name which contained 3 vintage Penguins, a Puffin written by the scientist J.R.S Haldane, and three old Pelicans. And Olivier from France sent me another Penguin which I can now strike from the list.
When I can, I try to find all the different covers that the different titles were published with, so I have many more Penguins than I have titles. My favourite is no. 797 Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier, which comes in the standard formats, and also with a colourful cover designed by Abram Games.
So in the bookcase pictured above there are about 2200 Penguins, covering around 1600 titles. And so there still many more to find.
(Link: The original bookshelf)