Literature as a collector's item

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The Independent Online
As far as collectables go, Penguin books have not yet rivalled Chippendale furniture or even John Lennon's hand-written examples of poetry.

There are nevertheless few book publishers who have catered for the collector as much as Penguin. On 30 July, 1935, the first Penguin book - Ariel by Andre Maurois - was released for sale. It was the first of almost 25,000 titles numbered for posterity. The titles were numbered until 1970, when the founder of Penguin, Sir Allen Lane, died.

As soon as they switched to international standard book numbers on the spine that year, collectors seemed to lose interest. Numbers one to 10 have proved especially enticing to collectors. The rarest of these is not Maurois's book - that honour belongs to number six, Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, worth between pounds 50 and pounds 80 in good condition.

Early Puffins - the junior imprint of Penguin - are also in demand. The most desired Puffin books in their original condition are a series called Puffin Cut-Outs. Most children of the time had the audacity to take the book's instructions to heart with their scissors.

With their 60th anniversary, Penguin collectables are back in demand and some have been keen to acquire all 60 titles in the Penguin 60s series. Penguin has also thought of the less ambitious. In 1985, it reissued the 10 original books in a new orange and cream cover, which quickly sold out.

This year, book-ends, bookplates and Penguin pencils have already been cleared from the shelves.

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