The history of Random Penguins

When I was at University I was fortunate enough to be able to do some work experience at the archive of a museum which holds original manuscripts and artwork of children’s authors, with names including Phillip Pullman, Robert Westall and the revolutionary editor of Puffin books, Kaye Webb. One major task I was set was to research into the history of well-known publishers, to build a comprehensive index of their backgrounds to cross reference with the work belonging to authors past and present which features in the collection.

One major element I remember about this research was the complexities of the histories of some of these companies, some of which went back hundreds of years. I followed the trails backwards to their beginnings – small family firms that grew and merged and eventually became the big names we know today.

I was reminded of this today when reading the news about the merger of two major publishing giants, Random House and Penguin. High profile authors and critics have come out in support of the move, hoping that it will mean both writers and readers will get better deals when dealing with huge retailers like Amazon. I suppose we will all have to watch this space to see how successful the move will be, as another chapter in the long history of these companies has now been written. (If you visit the Random House website you can see in their long a complicated timeline that their beginnings actually stretch back to 1855).

As a writer who likes history and quirky things, however, I was a bit disappointed to see the new company name will be Penguin Random House, and not Penguin House or Random Penguin.

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