Penguin's Pelican flies again

Penguin's Pelican flies again

Thirty years after Penguin discontinued its non-fiction imprint Pelican, the publisher is re-launching the brand this spring.

Pelican’s five launch titles, which reinforce the imprint’s ambition of publishing titles of “intellectual rigour with simple, clear and accessible prose”, range from topics including the brain to revolutionary Russia to human evolution. The new list will also be targeting young people, which commissioning editor Laura Stickney said was reflected in the £7.99 price-point.

Pelican first appeared in 1937, two years after Penguin was founded, aimed at a “self-educating post-war generation”. Its first book was George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Women’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism. The imprint went on to sell more than 250 million titles worldwide.

On 1st May Pelican will publish Economics: The User’s Guide by Ha-Joon Chang, Human Evolution by Robin Dunbar, Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991 by Orlando Figes, Greek and Roman Political Ideas by Melissa Lane, and The Domesticated Brain—a study of how our brains are adapting to modern life—by Bruce Hood.

“We’re looking for experts and expert communicators, and these authors absolutely fit there,” Stickney said of the launch list. “I think what’s exciting about these books is they’re very current—and the idea is to capture the state of knowledge in their field—but they also have lasting value. I think these books will be in print for a long time and I think they all, in different ways, force us to reconsider some essential and important topics.”

Stickney added that the overall aim of Pelican titles was to be the “first book you can turn to on an essential topic. They presume no knowledge on the part of the reader; they’re really books to lend a hand.”

Further titles planned for 2014 include How to See the World by Nicholas Mirzoeff—an introduction to visual culture—and a title on classical literature by Oxford professor Richard Jenkins.

As well as publishing the titles as e-books and creating a new website for Pelican, the publisher is planning a “global launch” to revive the brand’s international success. “Millions of readers grew up with Pelican as their first exposure to the main intellectual currents of the day,” Stickney said, “so there’s a wonderful legacy and heritage, and a fondness for the brand that still exists, which is what we want to tap into.”