Pair of 'Isokon Donkey Mark II' bookcases

Ref: 1472
  • Designer /Maker

    Designed by Ernest Race (1913-64)

    Manufactured by Isokon Furniture Co. (founded 1935)

  • Detail

    Painted plywood, with unstained legs

    39.8 x 43.2 x 34.1 cm

    English, designed 1963 and manufactured at the period

  • Marked

    One bookcase retains the original Isokon label (see right)

  • Collection

    Private collection

  • Notes

    The original plywood ‘Book Donkey’ was created in 1939 by Egon Riss (1901-64) for Jack Pritchard (1899-1992). The ‘Donkey’ took its name from its form: four legs and two ‘panniers’, designed to hold books and newspapers.  The bookcase, manufactured by Pritchard’s Isokon company, was the perfect size for publisher Allen Lane’s new Penguin paperbacks, and this model is now generally known as the ‘Penguin Book Donkey’.  An example of the 1939 bookcase belongs to the V&A (19-1993).  Isokon was one of the few British firms devoted to Modernism.

    A patent was taken out in 1963 for the ‘Isokon Donkey Mark II’ designed by Ernest Race, and this is the model presented here.  Another example of ‘Mark II’ belongs to the Geffrye Museum, London (GMUS-24/1993)