Penguin Classics and Elda Rotor.

Don Jaucian has a nice piece on Penguin Classics publisher Elda Rotor (what a wonderful name: Elda Rotor!) that starts by pointing out that she took the job in 2006, the same year Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere was published under the Penguin Classics banner; she has been promoting the literature of her native country ever since:

After Rizal’s “Noli” and its sequel, “El Filibusterismo,” and Jose Garcia Villa’s poetry collection “Doveglion” (introduced by the New York-based Filipino author Luis Francia), Nick Joaquin will soon be published under Penguin Classics, which recently acquired rights to his short story collection “The Woman With Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic” and his play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino,” in time for the author’s birth centennial in May 2017.

The interview that follows is interesting, as are the accompanying photos, which include a graphic showing “the evolution of the penguin” and “a vintage refrigerator reworked as a bookshelf.” Also, I learned about new series like Penguin Drop Caps, Civic Classics, “and soon the Penguin Orange Collection and Penguin Galaxy.” Thanks, Trevor!


  1. Penguin Classics is really impressing me with its adventurousness these days, and it’s not coming at the expense of reg’lar old anglo-antiquarianism either (their new Magna Carta book looks great). That’s the advantage of running a classics line for that long, I guess — after a few decades, you’ve gotten all the Dickens and Socrates out of the way, and you’re pretty much forced to look further afield.

  2. I would be glad to be reassured that their typesetting and production values have recovered from the nadir they reached during the early days of digital fonts. (Allegedly they sacked everyone competent and non-allegedly plumped for nasty thin spindly (“sparkly”) typefaces that hurt my eyes – I jumped ship to Wordsworth cheap-as-chip editions for my Dickens et al, because who even reads the critical apparatus on a Dickens?)

  3. It took me a while to figure out that Wordsworth must be a publisher in this context: the notion of Dickens edited by Wordsworth, quite apart from the time-reversal, was just too stunning to my early-morning brain.

  4. Sorry. Wordsworth Editions are great for the established classics in, where appropriate, unfashionably excellent translations from Russian. They don’t cut a lot of edges in classic Philippines literature, though.

  5. Sir JCass says

    I recently noticed Penguin Classics has been trying to break into the Spanish-language market as Penguin Clásicos. These are purely Spanish, not parallel texts, with critical apparatus. As far as I can tell, many of the titles are reprinted versions of editions originally issued by Debolsillo.

    I would be glad to be reassured that their typesetting and production values have recovered

    Penguin Classics on Kindle are still pretty bad. Lots of typos and weird spacing.

  6. I looked at the Drop Caps collection – which is a gimmick for selling hardcovers by blazoning the first letter of the author’s last name on the cover in a fancy design. They have Carlos Ruiz Zafón as Z! Way to look ignorant in the largest type possible. Oops.

  7. They’re putting a lot of publicity toward selling “collectible” editions (most of those “series” you mention), but all the hype is about how snazzy the cover designs are, not whether the interior typography is decent, or for that matter, are they built to last with acid-free paper and (faint hope) sewn bindings. Call me unimpressed.

  8. Sure. Book collectors notoriously care about the outside, not the inside. As a friend of Gale’s used to say, “I give you books, and I give you books, and all you do is eat the covers.”

  9. They have Carlos Ruiz Zafón as Z!


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