Our timeline

1855 - 1917

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1888

1855 - The oldest continuous imprint at Penguin Random House, Chatto & Windus is founded by bookseller-publisher John Camden Hotten. Early authors include Mark Twain, Wilkie Collins and H. G. Wells.

1890 - William Heinemann is founded and publishes its first book, The Bondman by Hall Caine.

1901 - The first English translation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (by Constance Garnett) is published in the UK by William Heinemann.

1915 - The first Ladybird children's books published. 

1917 - Hogarth Press is founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

1935 - 1945

The first Penguin book, Ariel by Andre Maurois
Animal Farm by George Orwell, 1st edition


1935 - Allen Lane publishes the first Penguin books, realising his vision to make quality books available to all at low prices. The books cost sixpence and are colour-coded: orange for fiction, blue for biography and green for crime. The first batch includes books by Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie.

1936 - By March 1936 - ten months after the company’s launch on 30 July 1935 - one million Penguin books have been printed. 

1937 - Allen Lane launches a non-fiction imprint after overhearing someone at a King’s Cross station bookstall mistakenly ask for “one of those Pelican books”. The first Pelican book is George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism followed by titles including A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells.

1940 - The first four Puffin Picture Books are published with the aim of helping evacuated city children adjust to life in the country. Titles such as War on Land are such a success that they are quickly followed by fiction. One title is Orlando the Marmalade Cat, the hero of 19 books between 1941 - 1972.

1942 - Penguin sets up the Armed Forces Book Club, to bring entertainment and comfort to soldiers cut off from friends and family.

1945 Animal Farm is published by Secker & Warburg.

1946 - 1963

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960

1946 - Launch of Penguin Classics with Homer’s The Odyssey, translated by E.V. Rieu, who becomes the first editor of the Penguin Classics list. 

1959–60 - Penguin Books faces trial under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

NB The second edition, published by Penguin in 1961, contains a publisher’s dedication to the 12 jurors (three women and nine men) who returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict against Penguin and thus made Lawrence’s last novel available to the British public for the first time.

- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee first published in the UK by William Heinemann.

1963 - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath first published by William Heinemann under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas.

1967 - The Mersey Sound is published and brings accessible relatable poetry to ordinary people. It  becomes the best-selling poetry anthology of all time.

1964 - 1985

Puffin Post 1969
Puffin Post 1968


1964 - Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is published.

1967 - The Puffin Book Club is started by Kaye Webb, which grows to become a childhood institution with 200,000 members. 

1969 - Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar is published; a copy has been sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds ever since. 

1970 - Allen Lane dies and Penguin is acquired by S. Pearson and Son Ltd - predecessor to today’s Pearson plc.

1976 - The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is published by Hamish Hamilton. 

1985 - Riders by Jilly Cooper is published by Transworld. The original draft was written in 1970, but Jilly left it on a London bus. Despite an appeal by the Evening Standard, it was never found. It took Jilly more than a decade to rewrite the novel.

1985 - Penguin acquires Michael Joseph and Hamish Hamilton.    

1986 - 2011

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

1995 - Penguin launches its first website (www.penguin.co.uk) and brings out Penguin 60s to celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary.

1998 - Random House UK is acquired by Bertelsmann and merges with Bertelsmann’s UK operation Transworld Publishers to create the Random House Group Ltd.

2003 - Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is first published. It becomes one of the biggest-selling novels of all time.

2006 - The Random House Group acquires a majority shareholding in BBC Books - a publishing imprint of Ebury.

2008 - Penguin publishes its first-ever ebooks. Titles include A Room of One’s Own, King Lear and Utopia.

2011 - Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens is first published and is a Sunday Times number one bestseller. In 2016 Harari publishes the follow-up, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Between them, Sapiens and Homo Deus have sold over 12 million copies around the world and growing.

2012 - Now

H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald

2013 - Penguin and Random House came together in to form the world’s first truly global book publishing company

2014 - H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is the winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize, the 2014 winner of the Prix Du Meilleur Livre Étranger and 2014 Costa Book of the Year, going on to win several more prizes in subsequent years and with sales exceeding 250,000 copies.    

2014 - Debut novel by English author and internet celebrity Zoe Sugg, with assistance from novelist Siobhan Curham. The book was the fastest selling book of 2014 and it broke the record for highest first-week sales for a debut author since records began. 

2015 - Penguin Random House UK first published The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins in January 2015, with it going on to receive worldwide critical acclaim and selling over 18 million copies worldwide.  

 - An 80p Penguin Classics Series campaign is launched to mark Penguin Books’ 80th birthday and sells 70,000 copies in its first week.

2016 - We launch our Creative Responsibility manifesto, outlining our commitment to the pillars of Reading, Inclusion, Community and Sustainability. In our efforts to make our business and our publishing more inclusive and representative of UK society, we remove the need for a University degree from all our jobs, introduce paid work experience and ban personal referrals.

2016 WriteNow, our flagship campaign to seek out, mentor and publish new and under-represented voices on the UK’s bookshelves is launched. We have now accquired six writers from the scheme. 

WriteNow mentees

2017 - Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is published, empowering a new generation of girls and leading a wave in feminist literature.

2017 - Penguin Random House acquire the world publication rights for two books to be written by former President of the United States Barack Obama and former First Lady Mrs. Obama. Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming was released on 13 November 2018. 

Becoming, the memoir by Michelle Obama, to be published in the UK by Viking on 13 November 2018


Becoming, the memoir by Michelle Obama, to be published in the UK by Viking on 13 November 2018

2017 - Jamie Oliver publishes Five Ingredients, instantly securing his 57th number one; going onto become the biggest hardback non-fiction book of 2017. In the five years since forming Penguin Random House, Jamie has sold almost seven million titles from across his catalogue, and remains the second biggest-selling author in the UK since records began (trailing only JK Rowling).

2017 - A memorial plaque commemorating Penguin Books founder Sir Allen Lane is unveiled at Exeter St David’s railway station.

Sir Allen Lane honoured at Exeter St David’s railway station


Penguin Books founder Sir Allen Lane honoured at Exeter St David’s railway station

2017 - Penguin Random House Children’s publish the first volume of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, 22 years after the publication of Northern Lights, the first of his world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy.

2017 - We sign an Agreement for Lease for a new London office, One Embassy Gardens.

2018 - Peter Rabbit becomes the biggest family film in the UK of 2018.

Peter Rabbit film poster, 2018

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