robot n from the Czech, robota, meaning forced labour 1 a machine with a human appearance or functioning like a human 2 a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. The word was first used in the play, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), by Karel Čapek in 1920.

The Penguin Classics series was launched in 1946 with a new translation of Homer's The Odyssey by E V Rieu, who at Allen Lane's request became the series editor. The series was restyled by Jan Tschichold in 1947-48, and again by Germano Facetti in 1963-64, when Rieu retired and the Classics were joined by a new series, the Penguin English Library. While the Classics were all translated works, the English Library was for fiction written in English prior to the twentieth century which had also come to be regarded as classic. Science fiction entered the English Library in 1970 with a reissue of Samuel Butler's Erewhon, followed in 1976 by The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was American of course, and the launch of a third series specifically for American fiction in 1981 saw him joined by Edward Bellamy, another nineteenth-century sf writer whose Looking Backward appeared in the Penguin American Library in 1982.

When David Pelham resigned as Penguin's art director in 1979 he was replaced by Cherriwyn Magill, who in turn was succeeded by Steve Kent in 1984. The following year was Penguin's fiftieth anniversary and a new Penguin Classics design was introduced with a black and cream livery: black for the spine and a text box on the front cover, cream for the back cover and the border on many, though not all, of the front covers. The top of the spine also featured a small band of colour which was red for English-language authors, yellow for European, green for oriental, and so on.

Over the years that followed the titles in the English and American Libraries were reissued as Penguin Classics and the two libraries were discontinued. The first sf to be elevated to a Classic was Butler's Erewhon, followed by Bellamy's Looking Backward, the Poe anthology and Edwin Abbott's Flatland.

SAMUEL BUTLER Erewhon, 1985 Erewhon by Samuel Butler

Reissued in The Penguin English Library 1970 and in Penguin Classics 1985, shown left, with an introduction by Peter Mudford. The cover shows a detail from Saint Jerome Reading in a Landscape (circa 1480-85) by Giovanni Bellini, at the National Gallery
in London.
EDWARD BELLAMY Looking Backward, 1986 Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy

First published 1888.

Published in The Penguin American Library 1982 and reissued in Penguin Classics 1986, shown left, with an introduction by Cecelia Tichi. The cover shows a detail from Gelmeroda VIII (1921) by Lyonel Feininger, at the Whitney Museum of
American Art in New York City.
The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, 1986 The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe edited by Harold Beaver

Fifteen stories and an essay, first published in The Penguin English Library 1976 and reissued in Penguin Classics 1986, shown left. The cover shows a detail from The Eye, Like a Strange Balloon, Floats Towards INFINITY (L'Oeil, comme un ballon bizarre
se dirige vers L'INFINI
), 1878, by Odilon Redon, at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

MS Found in a Bottle
The Unparalleled Adventure of one Hans Pfaall
The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion
A Descent into the Maelström
The Colloquy of Monos and Una
A Tale of the Ragged Mountains
The Balloon-Hoax
Mesmeric Revelation
The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade
Some Words With a Mummy
The Power of Words
The System of Dr Tarr and Prof Fether
The Facts in the Case of M Valdemar
Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe
Mellonta Tauta
Von Kempelen and His Discovery
EDWIN A ABBOTT Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, 1998 Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A Abbott

Reissued in Penguin Classics 1998 with an introduction by Alan Lightman.
The cover shows Three Spheres I (1945) by M C Escher.

Arthur Conan Doyle is best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes but the stories he wrote about an irascible zoologist are no less entertaining. The hot-tempered Professor Challenger made his debut in The Lost World when he takes three men up the Amazon to prove his claim that dinosaurs exist on a prehistoric plateau located deep within the jungle. But there is trouble ahead, for the men become 'marooned among the creatures of a bygone age' and are ambushed by apemen. "Missin' Links", grumbles one of the group, "and I wish they had stayed missin'".

The novel lent its name to a subgenre of 'lost world' stories such as Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1864, Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race in 1871, Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot in 1918, James Hilton's Lost Horizon in 1933 and Joseph O'Neill's Land Under England in 1935. But are such stories really sf? The Penguin Classic shown below calls The Lost World science fiction and that alone merits its inclusion here, but it is one of the Other Thrilling Tales that clinches it. For in Doyle's apocalyptic novella The Poison Belt the four explorers of The Lost World gather for a reunion at Challenger's house on a day when the Earth is engulfed by toxic ether. Across the globe entire populations drop like flies and it seems that the end of the world is nigh.

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE The Lost World and Other Thrilling Tales, 2001 The Lost World and Other Thrilling Tales by Arthur Conan Doyle

A novel, a novella and two short stories, first published individually in 1912-13.

Published in Penguin Classics July 2001 with an introduction by Philip Gooden.
The cover shows a still from the 1925 silent film of The Lost World
by the American director Harry Hoyt.

"I'm expecting the end of the world today, Austin."
"Yes, sir. What time, sir?"
"I can't say, Austin. Before evening."
"Very good, sir."

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Poison Belt (1913).

Steve Kent's design for the Penguin Classics remained in use for eighteen years but eventually it passed its sell-by date and in 2003 it was replaced by the design that is still in use today. Overseen by Penguin's current art director Jim Stoddart, the new design has abolished the old cream border and relocated the text box to the lower part of the cover. The logo and Penguin Classics label sit above the text box in a narrow white band, like the wraparound belly-bands used for some trade editions and French paperbacks, and the artwork fills the space above that.

KAREL ČAPEK R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), 2004 R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek

First published 1921 as Rossumovi univerzální roboti.

Published in Penguin Classics (USA) March 2004 with an introduction by Ivan Klíma.
The cover photograph is by Bob Elsdale.

The sf titles released as restyled Classics includes one that Penguin hadn't published before. Karel Čapek's R.U.R. is not the only sf play ever written but it is by far the most famous, for it gave the world the word 'robot' although, as Čapek himself pointed out, it was his artist brother Josef who coined the word.

H G WELLS A Modern Utopia, 2005 A Modern Utopia by H G Wells

First published 1905.

Published in Penguin Classics March 2005 with an introduction by Francis Wheen.
The cover illustration is by Kate Gibb.
H G WELLS The Sleeper Awakes, 2005 The Sleeper Awakes by H G Wells

First published 1910.

Published in Penguin Classics March 2005 with an introduction by Patrick Parrinder.
The cover illustration is by Kate Gibb.
H G WELLS The Shape of Things to Come, 2005 The Shape of Things to Come by H G Wells

First published 1933.

Published in Penguin Classics May 2005 with an introduction by John Clute.
The cover illustration is by Kate Gibb.
JACK LONDON The Iron Heel, 2006 The Iron Heel by Jack London

Reissued in Penguin Classics (USA) July 2006 with an introduction by Jonathan Auerbach. The cover shows John French Sloan's cover art for The Masses magazine in June 1914, which leads with an article on the Ludlow massacre, titled "Class War in Colorado".

Penguin first published The Iron Heel in 1945 but had not reprinted it in over sixty years so its reissue was long overdue. The cover may seem somewhat sensational but its depiction of the Ludlow massacre resonates deeply with London's tale of class war in the USA. For in 1914, seven years after the novel was first published, the Colorado National Guard opened fire on 1,200 striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow (now a ghost town), killing six men, two women and eleven children.

H G WELLS The Time Machine, 2006 The Time Machine by H G Wells

Reissued in Penguin Classics August 2006 as a sixtieth anniversary edition with an introduction by Marina Warner. The cover illustration is by Kate Gibb.

Burroughs' first novel A Princess of Mars is pulp fiction par excellence in which an out-of-body experience transports John Carter – gentleman of Virginia and veteran of the American Civil War – to Mars, or Barsoom as the locals call it, where he is soon fighting great white Barsoomian apes and beating some manners into the tusked green Tharks, before setting off to rescue the book's titular princess, who, as the cover reveals, is the stuff of many male sf readers' dreams: a beautiful, near naked, egg-laying Heliumite. 'Love conquers all', wrote the Roman poet Virgil, and Carter shows that this includes Warhoons and Zodangans. But there's more, for when the Atmosphere Factory breaks down and life on Mars faces death by asphyxia, there is only one man who can save the planet. It's a race against time but he might just do it.

The novel brought Burroughs instant success and three months after its concluding instalment, the October 1912 issue of The All-Story magazine published his second novel in its entirety. It was heavier on apes, though not from Barsoom, and in fact it was not sf at all, for this was the story of little Lord Greystoke, the orphaned son of English aristocrats who is raised by apes in Africa. Tarzan of the Apes became Lord of the Jungle and in doing so made Burroughs rich and famous.

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS A Princess of Mars, 2007 A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

First published February–July 1912 as Under the Moons of Mars, a six-part serial in
The All-Story magazine, under the pseudonym Norman Bean.

Published in Penguin Classics (USA) January 2007 with an introduction by John Seelye. The cover shows Dave Cockram and Rudy Nebres' cover art for John Carter,
Warlord of Mars
, published by Marvel Comics in April 1978.

Zamyatin's We has received several cover treatments since Penguin first published it in 1972 and its reissue in Penguin Classics adds further variety. Initially the artwork used for the previous edition in 1993 was retained (left) but this has been replaced on the current edition (right) with a painting that offers a more straightforward connection to the story.

YEVGENY ZAMYATIN We, 2007 YEVGENY ZAMYATIN We, 2007 We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Reissued in Penguin Classics 2007 (far left) with an introduction by Clarence Brown. The cover shows Painting of Futuristic Buildings and City by Anton Brzezinski.

Left: The book as first announced, showing Caricature of Aleksander Rodchenko (1933-4) by Georgii Petrusov.

The early quartet of Penguin Classics by Abbott, Bellamy, Butler and Poe have all been reprinted using new-style covers, with Bellamy's Looking Backward getting a new cover painting that – like Zamyatin's We, above – is more in tune with the text. The other three titles have retained the artworks used for the previous black-and-cream Classics that paired Butler with Bellini, Abbott with Escher and Poe with Redon's strange balloon.

EDWARD BELLAMY Looking Backward, 2008 Looking Backward: 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy

2008 reprint (USA) with an introduction by Cecelia Tichi. The cover shows a detail from
A City of Fantasy (circa 1850) by an unknown artist, at the National Gallery of Art
in Washington, D.C.

H G Wells had first joined the list of restyled Classics in 2005 with reissues of The Invisible Man, The War in the Air, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Time Machine and The First Men in the Moon, plus three sf titles that were new to Penguin – A Modern Utopia, The Sleeper Awakes and The Shape of Things to Come – with The Country of the Blind and Other Selected Stories following two years later. Then in 2008 The War of the Worlds was reprinted as a limited edition Penguin Classic to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the 1978 award-winning concept album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. The album had been turned into a live stage show in 2006 and the perform- ance at London's Wembley Arena in April of that year was subsequently released on DVD. The latter was re-released with the Penguin Classic as a thirtieth-anniversary boxed set two years later.

H G WELLS The War of the Worlds, 2008 The War of the Worlds by H G Wells

Reprinted as a limited edition Penguin Classic in November 2008 with an introduction by Brian Aldiss. The cover shows the thirtieth anniversary artwork for the 1978 concept album Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

"No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that
human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one
could have dreamed we were being scrutinized as someone with a microscope
studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even
considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of
space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious
eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us."

The War of the Worlds may be the most famous concept album to be based on an sf novel but it was not the first, as Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth had been given a similar treatment four years earlier by Rick Wakeman, the former keyboard player in the prog-rock group Yes. Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth was recorded live at London's Royal Festival Hall in January 1974 and topped the UK albums chart on its release four months later.

JULES VERNE Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 2009 Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

Reissued in Penguin Classics July 2009 with an introduction by Jane Smiley.
The cover illustration is by Stephen Rothwell.

Launched in 1963, the Penguin English Library had later been absorbed into the Penguin Classics list, but in April to December 2012 one hundred novels were reissued as a new English Library with covers by Coralie Bickford-Smith. These included The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man by H G Wells, and a limited edition of The Time Machine was also sold exclusively at Selfridges in London with a cover in the store's signature colour, Pantone 109 Yellow.

H G WELLS The Time Machine, 2012 The Time Machine by H G Wells

Reissued in the Penguin English Library May 2012 with a limited edition cover in Pantone 109 Yellow by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

M P Shiel's The Purple Cloud tells the story of a young English doctor named Adam Jeffson, who is the sole survivor of the first expedition to the North Pole. He returns alone across the ice and sea but everyone en route is dead, and when he reaches London the scale of the catastrophe is confirmed. For London, as elsewhere, is littered with corpses and Jeffson discovers that while he was away a volcanic eruption released a cloud of cyanide that has killed all humans, animals and birds. The prospect of being the last man alive fills him with horror and he becomes increasingly deranged. Consumed by madness and contrition he destroys London in a series of timed explosions and sets off again in search of survivors, burning cities as he goes, from Paris to Calcutta and San Francisco. For it seems he is alone in the world and the human race will end, as it began, with a man called Adam.

M P SHIEL The Purple Cloud, 2012 The Purple Cloud by M P Shiel

First published 1901.

Published in Penguin Classics July 2012 with an introduction by John Sutherland.
The cover illustration is by Yuko Shimizu.