|Parent company||Penguin Random House|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
Pelican Books is a non-fiction imprint of Penguin Books. Originally founded in 1937, Pelican Books combined important topics with clear prose to create inexpensive paperbacks for a broad audience. Before being discontinued in 1984, Pelican Books published thousands of accessible, stimulating books covering a wide range of subjects from classical music to molecular biology to architecture. The imprint will be relaunched in May 2014 to bridge the increasing gap between high and low-brow culture.
Pelican Books was first established in 1937 as a non-fiction imprint for low-cost intellectual paperbacks. Founder Allen Lane wrote, ‘We…believed in the existence in this country of a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price, and staked everything on it.’ Pelican lowered the traditional barriers to knowledge by selling books at the cost of a packet of cigarettes. These books became especially popular among the self-educating post-war generation, and Pelican was even called an ‘informal university for 50s Britons’ by The Guardian. The Spectator reported, ‘If there is any sense in saying that the culture of the world should be accessible to all without distinctions of wealth, such publications are helping to make it true.’
Pelican published many of the major intellects of the 20th century including historian Eric Hobsbawm, literary critic Boris Ford, philosopher AJ Ayer, and scientist Jacob Bronowski. Pelican’s first book was George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. Other classic Pelican books included Totem and Taboo, The Eighteen Nineties, An Introduction to Modern Architecture, Coming of Age in Samoa, The Pelican Guide to English Literature, and Childhood in Society. Pelican’s early supporters included Orwell, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and JB Priestley.
The imprint published books on thousands of subjects and became a global phenomenon. The series sold over 250 million copies worldwide over its nearly 50 years. Although Pelican was discontinued in 1984, the original books continue to be collected worldwide and prized for their iconic bright blue covers.
Pelican Books will return on May 1, 2014. The books will once again focus on inexpensive, accessible non-fiction for a non-specialist readership. Pelican will publish a series of concise introductions by leading experts on topics varying from economics to revolutionary Russia. Pelican will also have an innovative website presence at www.pelicanbooks.com, which will be revealed at launch in May.
Five titles will be published in May 2014, with five more added each year:
Economics: The User’s Guide by Ha-Joon Chang
A witty and delightfully myth-busting introduction to economics that shows why we need not – and should not – leave it to the experts alone.
Human Evolution by Robin Dunbar
A lively, concise and accessible overview of human evolution, and especially the social and cognitive changes that gave rise to modern humans.
Revolutionary Russia by Orlando Figes
The definitive short book on the Russian people’s century-long trauma.
The Domesticated Brain by Bruce Hood
Combining the basics of social psychology with cutting edge neuroscience, an exploration of what keeps us bound together.
Greek and Roman Political Ideas by Melissa Lane
An elegant and stimulating introduction to political philosophy in Ancient Greece and Rome.
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