The modern incarnation of Penguin’s Black Spine series is iconic but it might surprise you to know that it’s actually quite recent. The current design was implemented in 2002, just fifteen years ago, after going through a couple of similar design phases starting in the 1960s.
Penguin Black Classics are not fancy. They usually run anywhere from $6 to $20 a piece. The design is simple but elegant. Each cover features a work of art that is meant to evoke the spirit of the text.
My favorite thing about Penguin Black Classics is their introductions. These introductions are written by a wide range of literary critics, scholars, and authors. There are certainly some that are better than others but overall I find them to be of a high caliber. In fact, I’ve written before about Tony Tanner’s original introductions to Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park–reason enough, in my opinion, to forgo the multitude of gorgeously designed Jane Austen reprints in favor of the simpler Penguin Black Classics editions.
Penguin Black Classics Are Economical and Have the Best IntroductionsClick To Tweet
Historically, my biggest complaints about Penguin Black Classics is that the spines crack horribly. Cracking a paperback spine is a wonderful feeling, but it doesn’t look great on my shelf. Recently, however, I bought a copy of The Woodlanders and noticed that the spine doesn’t crack at all and the book stays open of its own accord. Perhaps Penguin changed their binding method sometime within the last two years. If so, it’s a vast improvement.
Overall, I think Penguin Black Classics are a good value for your money, especially if I’m correct about the improved binding method. I usually choose a Penguin Black Classics edition when I want to really dig deep and highlight, underline, or otherwise mark up a text.
What do you think of Penguin Black Classics? Which classics editions are your favorite?