Born in Austria, Egon Riss (1901- 1964) was educated at the Weiner Technische Hochschule (the Vienna Institute of Technology and Science). Following his studies, he quickly established a reputation by winning a competition for a clinic and health insurance office, but subsequently fled Nazi Europe and emigrated to London in 1938. He lived at the Isokon Building, a period in which he collaborated with Jack Pritchard to design the Donkey, the Gull, the Bottleship and the Pocket Bottleship.
Isokon Penguin Donkey 1: Birch
In partnership with Isokon Plus, Penguin brings you the original Isokon Penguin Donkey 1. Designed by Egon Riss in 1939, the compartments of the bookcase were created to be the perfect size to store Penguin paperbacks. Exhibiting a flowing organic style, it features a central section ideal for storing newspapers and magazines, and can accommodate up to 80 paperbacks. At its inception, Allen Lane, founder of Penguin Books, was inspired by the Donkey’s design, and inserted 100,000 leaflets for the renamed Penguin Donkey inside Penguin paperbacks.
Each Donkey bought from the Penguin Shop comes with a plywood coffee cup tray that sits perfectly atop the curved bookcase.
- Colour: Birch
- Dimensions: 600L × 420W × 430H mm
- This product is made to order and may take 10 weeks to deliver. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Photos by Rory Gardiner
Isokon Penguin Donkey 1 – What is it?
Designed by Egon Riss in 1939, the compartments of the bookcase were created to be the perfect size to store Penguin paperbacks. Exhibiting a flowing organic style, it features a central section ideal for storing newspapers and magazines, and can accommodate up to 80 paperback books.
The furniture's name originates from its four legs and two side shelf compartments (resembling the panniers carried by a donkey). When Allen Lane, founder of the then young publishing house Penguin Books, was inspired by the Donkey’s design, 100,000 leaflet inserts for the renamed Penguin Donkey were placed inside Penguin paperbacks. However, with the outbreak of World War II, production of the new Penguin Donkey came to a stop: only one hundred units were made and sold.
About Isokon Plus, the manufacturer
The Isokon Furniture Company was founded in 1935 by Jack Pritchard, a British entrepreneur and visionary. He believed modern architecture and design had the ability to transform society for the better. Isokon’s designs have endured as among the most important and original of the 20th century. From the initial machining of timber to the final polish, one highly-skilled cabinetmaker sees a batch of products through from beginning to end in Isokon Plus’ London workshop where they are proud to continue the traditions of craftsmanship and manufacturing.
About Egon Riss, the designer