Sunday, 26 June 2016

New Penguins from Alice Springs

No. 2543- 1968
Who would have thought I would find vintage Penguin books from Alice Springs? I did not expect to find a book shop but lo and behold I not only found one but there were two.

One book shop at the far end of the Todd Mall had new books. I did not go into it as we walked past because the last thing I needed was a new book.

I did ask a shop clerk if there were any second hand bookshops in the city. "Yes," she replied. "Go to the other end of the street. Go past the KFC (of course there would be a KFC) and you will see it in the next block across the street."

Sure enough we found it without any difficulty.  The lady who was working in it said she had been there for 11 years but this was her last week. She had sold the shop and was moving back to Melbourne where her family lives.

No 2296- 1968
Most of the books were popular fiction that backpackers and airport travellers might look for. I call them "airport books". I did find one shelf of older classic books and there were a handful of vintage Penguins scattered amongst the shelves. Several I had already. The horrible Galsworthy covers were staring at me and fortunately I did not need them. I dislike these covers of their photographs of the tv series stars intensely. My very least Penguin books. But then I saw four books by Richard Gordon.  These are part of a series of "Doctor" books that appear to be quite humorous. I have a couple of them and I already owned one of the four there but I did not have the other three. They were all first published so I picked them up.  I must say, I am very happy with this find as I do not come across them much in Australia.

The next story is a bit more odd.

My sister and I had been in Cairns, Queensland, the week before. We took the sky rail up to Kurunda. Forty five minutes in a cable car high above the rainforest canopy below. Once I decided to not indulge my fear of heights it was very peaceful and beautiful. Also the giant blue koala Commonwealth games mascot and a cameraman were in the gondola behind us. A promotional for the games was being recorded. If you see an advertisement for the upcoming Commonwealth games in a gondola over a lot of trees know that we were in the next car.

No 2294- 1968
We walked around the town of Kurunda with all the touristy markets, cafes and Aboriginal paintings. At the very end I noticed a sign for a bookshop. It looked very second hand.  My sister waited outside while I went in. An older gentleman sat behind the counter and looked as though he had been there a very long time. It turned out the majority of his books were non-fiction. Though I did see a couple of boxes on the floor of fiction books.

The conversation went like this:

Me:  "Do you have any vintage Penguin books?"
Him: "What are they?"
Me: "Penguin published paperback books printed between 1935 and 1970."
Him: "Never heard of them."
At this point I had to hold onto a shelf because I was reeling a bit. Where had this man been the last 80 years?  Behind this counter I expect.

Me:  "They would most likely be small paperbacks, coloured orange......or maybe green.  Green is crime, Orange is fiction. " I decided not to mention blue, yellow, cerise or especially grey."

PK 48- 1965
Him: "Nope, don't have those."             Me:  "Okay, I thought I would check."
Him: Continues reading whatever he is reading behind the counter. I could hardly breathe for his enthusiasm.

On the way out of the open shop door I glanced down and saw an old Penguin Peacock book.  It seems I only come across these in the Hobart Tip recycling shop so I picked it up. I don't always buy them but I did love the cover on it. The title was vaguely familiar and it was a first published.

"C'mon little Peacock, let's get you out of this place. The old man might eat you for dinner or just as likely throw you in a bin." I am sure Kurunda does not have a mass market for a 1965 Chinese Peacock book."

I always feel as though I am releasing a bear from an Asian bile factory when I rescue an old Penguin book from a strange bookstore. There was no appreciation going on there.

So off I went with my dollar

purchase.   I must say I am very happy with my four new (old) Penguin books. I will soon catalogue and photograph them and onto the revered book shelf it will go.

If you have read any of these please let me know what you thought.


  1. Sounds like little of a treasure hunt. Lovely to find these books by chance. I am happy you saved the Peacock book from the grumpy old man!

  2. if i ran a bookshop, i'd be like that, i think - irritated that any customer should enter and disturb me... crotchetyness thy name is old mudpuddle... no, probably not; but wonderful luck capturing wild penguins in such out of the way places... i look for them sometimes and have a small collection, but i never can find first eds. and have to take whatever i can get. still fun, though...


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