Sunday, 26 October 2014

Trainspotting some thoughts on railway books in my bookshop.

If ah git thit kind ah dosh ah'd git ah git train baks fir masel n gie one tae ma auld pa.

The top burds cannae keep away from bak loaded lads in anoraks.

Findin ah woman n hir lookin eftir the bairns, wi mi in mi shed, thit's the scene fir me.

Sorry about that, wrong title for a moment there, I have got slightly diverted into reading about the early days of railways from the perspective of railway books published around 125 years ago.

As there doesn’t seem to much newsworthy going on in Thanet at the moment and I didn’t manage to produce a blog post yesterday, here we go.

Back in the 1960s when I first became interested in and to some extent involved in bookselling, for the most part bookshops and most books were aimed at that part of English society which I will loosely class as above “working class”.

At some point or another, probably in the late 60s people in the publishing and bookselling world realised that book ownership wasn’t really a class based thing, the main mover in this was Paul Hamlyn, who started Hamlyn books. Later on he bought Odhams, with the associated Sun Printers and the associated union problems so he sold out and founded Octopus books.

I guess I think of this as the hamburger effect, Paul originally christened Paul Bertrand Wolfgang Hamburger, revolutionised the cookery book world by introducing something pretty much unheard of at the time the, test kitchen. This meant that at the proofing stage, someone was sent into the kitchen with a newly typeset cookery book and told to cook and test all the recipes in the book.

Another thing he introduced into the publishing and bookselling world was market research. What that meant in practice was that instead of sitting in their offices waiting for authors to come along with manuscripts, the editors would actively look for demand. So for instance, they would determine that there was a demand for book priced at £1.99 on sports cars in A4 format with 200 pages and 100 coloured pictures and then actively go out looking for authors, publishers and printers to produce it.

Previously most of the quality non fiction books had been priced in guineas increments of £1.05, in fact recently I found an example of overstickering publisher madness that suggests a strong desire to return to the past.

Now of course the nonfiction book buying fraternity – those who have interests beyond the obvious universal sex and death interest – to the point of having a collection of books about the subject they are interested in, is pretty much classless.

Anyway back to the railway books, we do have a small railway book section in my bookshop and also some older scarcer railway books, which the more discerning enthusiast has to ask for.

Anyway one of my jobs is called collation, which means with the more expensive books, checking that they have all their pages, hence my diversion into railway books.

Now back in the day when I was at school, the school libraries that I encountered mostly contained books that fall into the category I would describe as boring, but one of the had a marvellous book about trains, which had foldout illustrations showing the plumbing of locomotives.

I am not sure if one of the railway books I collated this week was exactly the same as the one in the school library, certainly most of the books it contained were very out of date, so 1880 to 1900 would be about right, but I suddenly found myself sucked back into the very early days of railways viewed from about this time.

1 comment:

  1. I still have a Paul Hamlyn book of Astronomy that I bought in 1967 when I worked for one of the International Publishing Corporation companies. IPC was created 1963 from Fleetway Publications and others (mirror papers) by Cecil King. Fleetway had been created in 1959 and took over Odhams in 1961. Paul Hamlyn sold his company to IPC in 1964.


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