Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C , Case SS, Shelf 35

Design

1939 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Jack Pritchard employed a succession of continental Modernists to work for his British furniture company Isokon, including the Viennese emigré Egon Riss. Riss designed the 'Penguin Donkey' specifically to carry the new Penguin paperbacks, which for the first time made available reasonably priced, best-quality, international literature to a wide public. Books were stacked in the side elements (or 'panniers') and newspapers and magazines slotted into the centre. The organic, curvilinear shape of the Donkey, raised on legs rounded in elevation, was made possible by the use of very thin plywood.

To advertise the bookcase, a leaflet was included in every Penguin book. Had war not broken out the Donkey might well have been Isokon's first commercially successful product. However, it has had an afterlife, being reinvented several times: in 1963 Pritchard sold a new version ('Mark 2'), revised by the well-known designer Ernest Race, and in 2003 Isokon's successor firm, Isokon Plus, began making the Donkey 3, designed by Shin and Tomoko Azumi.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
blueprint on paper
Brief Description
Design for Penguin Donkey bookcase, Egon Riss for Isokon Furniture Company, blueprint, London, 1939
Physical Description
Blueprint of a design for the 'Penguin Donkey' bookcase, designed by Egon Riss for the Isokon Furniture Company. The sheet contains a front view of the shelves, section view of the bookcase and a list of parts.
Dimensions
  • Height: 70.1cm
  • Width: 74.7cm
Style
Subject depicted
Summary
Jack Pritchard employed a succession of continental Modernists to work for his British furniture company Isokon, including the Viennese emigré Egon Riss. Riss designed the 'Penguin Donkey' specifically to carry the new Penguin paperbacks, which for the first time made available reasonably priced, best-quality, international literature to a wide public. Books were stacked in the side elements (or 'panniers') and newspapers and magazines slotted into the centre. The organic, curvilinear shape of the Donkey, raised on legs rounded in elevation, was made possible by the use of very thin plywood.



To advertise the bookcase, a leaflet was included in every Penguin book. Had war not broken out the Donkey might well have been Isokon's first commercially successful product. However, it has had an afterlife, being reinvented several times: in 1963 Pritchard sold a new version ('Mark 2'), revised by the well-known designer Ernest Race, and in 2003 Isokon's successor firm, Isokon Plus, began making the Donkey 3, designed by Shin and Tomoko Azumi.

Associated Objects
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.248-1975

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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