An Encyclopaedic Collection of Knowledge for the Masses
by Bruce Tober
Copyright © 2004 Bruce Tober All Rights
|Writers ran the gamut from the poet, Sir John Betjeman to the Methodist
clergyman and Left Wing activist, Rev Donald O. Soper, and from the novelist, Leslie Paul to the veteran BBC cricket
commentator, John Arlott. Subjects ranged from Archaeology to Atomic Energy, and from Christmas to Computers. Take Home Books formed
an encyclopaedic collection of knowledge for the masses in the '50s and '60s.
John Arlott's Take Home Book,
Crime and Punishment
Published fortnightly by Newman Neame Ltd (NNL) from 1955 until 1966 (and later by Pergamon Press), the 16-page booklets were
geared toward two markets:
And for the school and college market, their role was as a "general-studies series relating classwork to practical
real life activity."
For the industrial market, they were to be a "training and information"
series focussing "especially in economics and similar subjects". They were thus aimed at increasing readers'
knowledge of the role of companies and producers in our industrial society [and] to relate industry and commerce
to the wider social issues of the day."
But when Robert Maxwell's Pergamon
Publishing took over publication, their purpose was somewhat
less lofty, "to make factual information easily available on a wide range of subjects. Content is directed
towards those who do not have immediate access to such information," according to the company's blurb. "The
premise on which they are based is that a better-informed citizen contributes more to the organization for which
he or she works."
Annual subscriptions to the pamphlets cost £2 and 10 shillings.
A colleague tells me, "When I first started work in 1956 (as a
grocers delivery boy with a bicycle) £2/10/0 (or 'fifty bob' as we used to call it) was a weeks wages."
Twelve years later, the annual subscription rates had risen to £3/05/00, but single copies of individual
titles could be purchased for only £00/02/06 including postage.
Another colleague informs me that "in 1965 the national average
industrial wage was round about £15.00 a week and is now about £400.So dividing by six makes £2.10s
getting on for £70.00 today."
A random sampling of titles show the pamphlets covered such topics as:
holiday celebration tips, journalism, government, the
law, archaeology, and just about anything else
you can imagine.
|Sir John Betjeman (writing as Richard M Farran). Betjeman, best known and loved as a poet, he
was recipient of the major British literary prizes and in 1972 was appointed Poet Laureate. But he was also a recognised
expert on things architectural.
Sir John Betjeman
Leslie Paul, the novelist, who, in titling his autobiography, coined the term "Angry Young Men",
which arguably defined the '60s generation. Paul wrote a THB on urban planning.
Leslie Thomas John Arlott led a rich and varied life, which
began in 1914 and ended in 1991.His working life began as a clerk in a mental hospital, and proceded to an 11-year
career as a police offcer and eventually detective in Southampton.
He was also a published poet with Of Period And Place. He succeeded George Orwell as a BBC Literary Programmes Producer (1945-50),
and then became an instructor at the BBC’s Staff Training School. And eventually he became the BBC's legendary
Marjorie Bremner, psychologist, political scientist, journalist specialising in social and political
problems, and author of detective stories. She wrote several THBs on subjects ranging from temper to crime.
|Sir John Wolfenden served as Vice Chancellor of Reading University and is best known as author
an early government report which suggested homosexual behaviour between consenting adults should no longer be a
criminal offence. This was in 1957.
Sir John Wolfenden
John Chenevix Trench, an advertising copywriter, author and amateur archaeologist, who wrote several
THB titles on history and archaeology. He was also a novelist who wrote four mystery/detective novels featuring
"Martin Cotterell", an archaeologist-detective.
Lord Donald O Soper was Superintendent of West London Mission
and had been President of the Methodist Conference in 1953. Born in 1903, he was a veteran Labour peer and Methodist
Soper was famed as a campaigner on social issues and as a strong advocate of pacifism and nuclear disarmament and
early backer of CND. He is best remembered for his numerous appearances at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, where
he first preached in 1942.
Lord Donald Soper
Harry Newman Jr - Founder
Newman Neame Ltd was co-founded by Harry Newman Jr, entreprenuer, industry
pioneer and poet, who died at age 80 in October 2001.
Harry Newman Jr
|Newman was born in St. Louis and graduated from Harvard College and in
1943 from Harvard Business School. He went on to graduate also from Cambridge University in England with a Masters
of Letters degree in 1949. At Cambridge, he published <B><I>Varsity</b></i>, the first
weekly campus newspaper.
It was during his time in England that he founded the British Case-Study
Writer's Circle, and later co-founded Newman Neame Publishing, which produced the first Fodor's Travel guides.
Books at Star Dot Star
offers more than 100 Take Home Books. Take a look by entering "Take Home Books" (without the quote marks)
in the Quick Search window here and then tick the button for Keywords and finally click on the Search button..