Booklicious: Bookcase Wednesday

August 03, 2011


This is a cute book storage option with an even cuter name - the Penguin Donkey. And although it may look like just another contemporary piece, it was actually designed in 1939. The brainchild of architect Egon Riss and produced by innovative furniture manufacturer Isokon, it was called the Donkey because of its four legs and two panniers. Allen Lane, founder of just-launched publishing company Penguin, fell in love with the design, noting how perfectly his new Penguin paperbacks fit in it. He offered to include free brochures about the product in 100,000 Penguin books, and the Donkey became the Penguin Donkey. Sadly, WWII coincided with the Penguin Donkey's launch, and only 100 units ended up being made, all of which sold like hot cakes. Jack Pritchard, founder of Isokon, fondly remembered the little book holder in his memoirs: 

Selling the Isokon Penguin Donkey had its amusing side. One day a friendly voice came over the telephone saying his son had received one. I asked if he liked it; oh yes, but his son was three years old. Another time a policeman rang saying that a highly indignant man had received a carton containing an unasked-for Donkey, and complaining of improper selling methods. When I told the policeman that a few people would play tricks and send the reply postcard addressed to someone to pull their leg, the conversation ended in chuckles. 
—Jack Pritchard, View from a Long Chair, 1984 

The Penguin Donkey is back in production today, however, and you can nab one for your own Penguin paperbacks: $1,150 from Conran.


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