Pelican Books is the non-fiction imprint of Penguin Books. From 1938 to 1940, a few books within the series Penguin Specials (and thus given numbers starting with “S”) were given blue covers and labelled as Pelican Specials. These paperbacks were claimed by the publishers to be ‘books of topical importance published within as short a time as possible from the receipt of the manuscript. Some are reprints of famous books brought up-to-date, but usually they are entirely new books published for the first time. S16, which I finished reading this morning, is
Here is the frontispiece;
sample pages with drawings and texts;
and, in particular, the plates of the underwater pencil sketches. These were made on xylonite, a waterproof early plastic which would, when suitably prepared, take pencil.
The intense expression in this portrait of Robert Gibbings reveals the penetrating eye that provides his vision for detail; his evident power belies the delicacy of his hand. The strength required to manage his drawing in a fairly primitive helmet weighed down by lead piping to enable him to remain underwater is evident in the striking image.
Gibbings “was born in Cork in 1889 and educated in the snipe bogs and trout streams of Munster.” He attended the National University of Ireland, and in London the Slade School and the Central School of Arts and Crafts. During the first World War he served in Gallipoli and Salonica; in 1924 he took over the Golden Cockerel Press and ran it for nine years, producing books which will long remain some of the finest examples of English printing. It was largely through his efforts that the Society of Wood-engravers came into being. (From the jacket blurb).
This delightful little volume bears the author’s descriptive, poetic, prose; useful information about fish and coral reefs as they were 80 years ago. His eye for colour and form is evident throughout, and he brings an elegance of movement both to the drawings and to the wood engravings.
Originally published at 6d or 2.5p in today’s money, the book is so well made that it remains intact.