Yes, I can admit that I love old quiz books. Veteran quiz books for me would be those published before 1965, and vintage ones would be those published between 1966 and 1980. I will freely admit to being a fool who is easily parted from his cash for this sort of thing. Still, its all relative, and I'd like to take you through my collection.
The Granddaddy of them all
Can You Answer This ? (1927)
I was amazed and delighted to find this venerable quiz book on ebay, and consider it cheap at the price for the £8 or so I paid for it. Let me begin with a quote ,
“ Here is a new pastime.
It is most amusing and once begun, irresistible. I know this to be true, for I tried it on several people. Two Public School boys – and heaven knows they ought to be tired of it – clamoured for more . . . “ This unintentionally amusing passage is actually the first paragraph of the introduction to “Can You Answer This ? “ , which I recently bought, making it the oldest quiz book currently in my possession. Yes, its so old, that for one thing it never even calls itself a quiz book. In fact it never even uses the word quiz once. The introduction is rather sweet actually. How about this : -
“ At a luncheon party where I introduced the game a number of intelligent people became incapable of rational conversation, and for several hours would do nothing but test each other’s general knowledge. One day after tea I was forced to be late for an important engagement by the eagerness of my friends for fresh questions. And it was a very important engagement. I had promised to address a Women’s Institute on Hungarian Cookery . ( Honestly, I am not making this up ! ) The Americans, who appear to have invented this game, demanded eight fresh editions of a book like this one in the course of a month in February, a month in which there are only twenty –eight days. “
The introduction, as unbelievably po-faced and genteel as it may be, actually does accurately describe the effect that asking questions can have on a room full of people. My colleagues are none of them quizzers, but they are always asking me when I’m going to be bringing another quiz to road test in the staff room. George A. Birmingham, claims a little further on,
“The man who learns the answers to the two thousand questions in this book can win a scholarship , if he is young enough to go in for scholarships. If he is too old for that he will place himself on a lofty pedestal in society. “ Forgive my mirth there a moment , George. Still, he does make some other points which still hold good today,for example,
“ This new game is best played in company. The pleasure of it is increased when it is shared. Nothing is more delightful than to discover that you are the only person in the room who knows what the Pentateuch is, or to find out that Rudolph Valentino, whom you have failed to identify is, after all, a person whom no one with your superior culture can be expected to know about. “ Yes, I’ll try that one next time I get an Entertainment question wrong. Sorry boys, but you can’t expect someone with my superior culture to know about that. Sure to go down well at the Rugby club.
“It is an amusement, “ continues George, “ in which the elderly have a distinct advantage over the young . “ Well, as we all know, that depends on who is setting the questions nowadays. If by ‘elderly’ he meant the middle aged and upwards, then I’d probably agree. George has a theory for this,“The fact is that there is a blind spot in all of us. We know the things that are written in the history –books ( well, not all of us, G. ) We know the things that came within our own memory. ( again . . . ) But between the places at which the history-books stop and memory begins there is a gap, and since history-books are being continually brought up to date, that gap is far larger for the old than the young. “
Most of the rest of the introduction is taken up with George explaining how the questions were selected, and how the book is organised and meant to be used. A panel of six selected the questions, and there’s a definite hint of pique in George’s comment,“ I myself wanted to introduce a question about the tenets of the Monophysites, a subject with which I think every school boy must be familiar . I was severely snubbed over this ( can’t think why . )
I love the end to the introduction as well. George explains how we should try to work on our own weak areas,“ I find, for example, that I am shamefully ignorant of the names and reputations of movie stars. From this on I intend to stop outside every picture house I pass, and make a mental, and if necessary, a pencil note of who is ‘featured’. . . Having found your weak spot, it is plainly a duty , and ought to be a pleasure, to strengthen it. It is also a duty, and certainly a pleasure, to strengthen the weak spots of other people. “
To our 21st century eyes the book is certainly a weird set of too-easies , mixed with what-the-hells . Some remarkably succinct and askable questions – the meaning of Sinn Fein one being an example of a question that I’ve actually asked almost verbatim in the club in the past – and some questions which fail the test through being vague, through allowing for the possibility of too many alternative answers, or through being just too damn easy. Be honest, though, even though the compiler never uses the word quiz, you have to admit that this is just as much a quiz book as any that are published today. Which leads me to speculate. I did wonder if the quiz book was a post war phenomenon. Obviously its not. So just when was the first ever quiz book written and published in the UK – that is a book containing general knowledge questions, compiled solely for the amusement and entertainment of the reader ?
Giant Quiz Book (1939)
George Birmingham mentioned the popularity of quiz books in the USA in his introduction to Can You Answer This? Well, here's something in the line of proof. This was published in the USA in 1939, and it's interesting to compare it to the earlier English book. Both of them have an interesting range of questions, some perennial old chestnuts, and some what the 'ells. Blimey, though, there are a lot of questions in this book. I would say that this is proof that Americans expect value for money, since it's absolutely chock full of questions. Maybe that explains the title, since it really isn't giant in terms of dimensions. It's a small hardback of 246 pages - not giant at all.
Its heart is definitely in the right place, though. Compiler Fred Garrigus' first words in his foreword are : -" Giant Quiz Book is designed primarily for entertainment. If something new is learned in the process of answering the questions, so much the better." That's an admirable attitude which some modern day setters would do well to emulate.
I do love old quiz books. I rarely if ever find one which is totally without something of interest, and this is a particularly good'un.
Quiz Book Sets and Series
Ptarmigan Quiz Books
Like Puffin and Pelican, Ptarmigan was a subdivision of Penguin Books, but unlike them it didn't last that long. I quote :- "Ask me Another is the first of the Ptarmigan books.This series is designed to cover as comprehensively as possible the field of Games, Puzzles and Indoor Recreations. " A laudable aim, but Ptarmigan can't have been that successful, since the imprint seems to have disappeared by the time "Can You Tell Me ?" was published in the mid 50s. I may be wrong, but I think there were only ever nine of them, and by 1950 they had been absorbed into the parent company, and books in this genre were issued as Yellow Penguins - see Can you Tell Me below. There is something I find irresistibly charming about these books, and about most quiz books of this veteran era. They are just so honest - what you see is exactly what you get with them.
Ask Me Another (1945 - Ptarmigan 1)
This is published under the Ptarmigan imprint. In fact its not just a Ptarmigan book, it is actually the first Ptarmigan book. This is a slim volume, but a good'un which establishes a format used in the Margaret Dixon books, of using multiple answer questions. Answers do tend to lack a huge amount of explanation, and some of the questions seem very obscure to us all these decades later. Which is one of the reasons why I like it so much.This is a good, honest, no nonsense quiz book which does exactly what it says on the tin - and some of the questions have aged rather well.
Something To Think About ( 1945- Ptarmigan 2)
There is something I find very appealing about these Ptarmigan Books. So much so in fact that I have been collecting even those that really defy the definition of a quiz book at all. Take this one - Ptarmigan number 2 as it happens. Like the first this one was compiled by Hubert Phillips, who seems to have been a bit of a jack of all mind sports. Remember TVs Ask the Family ? Remember how some of the questions weren't general knowledge, but a set of problems for you to work out ? Well, that's what this book is - a whole book of them. The wonderful thing is that I can and do use these in my quizzes. They break up the straight questions now and again.
Word Play (1945 - Ptarmigan 4)
Ptarmigan 4, this one. ( Where is Ptarmigan 3 ? Well, that one was called How To Play Contract Bridge. So I'm not writing about that one here, although I do actually own it as well.). Again, not really a quiz book - well, not a quiz book at all , actually. Very much a book for crossword fanatics, this one is full of word puzzles - anagrams, biograms - malapropisms - you name it. Can I use it to set questions ? Probably not. At least not in the main body of the quiz, although I would imagine that you could cull some of the stuff in here for a handout. But lets be honest, sometimes you collect something just for the sake of having it in your collection, and I make no bones about it, this is such a one.
Who Wrote That ? (1948 - Ptarmigan 5)
This is Ptarmigan 5. Nothing cryptic about the title of this, the third of the Ptarmigan stable that I acquired. This was an ebay purchase - and I think that the asking price ended up at something like £1:85.Its mildly interesting that the huge ptarmigan on the front cover of "Ask Me Another" has by this time been replaced by the altogether less intrusive flying bird on this and the later Ptarmigans. Rather more staid and serious looking, in my opinion.
As the name suggests, this is a straightforward literary quiz. All it offers you is quotations by the sackful, and all you have to do is name the author and the work each is taken from. This is actually quite heavyweight stuff - for heaven's sake , I have a degree in English Literature, and I struggle with quite a lot of what's here. Needless to say , I love it, even though there's limited scope for using it to set quizzes.
Triplets (1947 - Ptarmigan 7)
Ptarmigan 7 now. Ptarmigan 6 was called Chipwinkle's Crossword Book - again, not really within my remit. They do say that rules are meant to be broken, and so I broke my own rules only to buy books I can actually use for my own quizzes. As you can see from the photo I do own the full set of nine. Back to Triplets. A slight variation on the Ptarmigan theme this one. As the title suggests each question, and there are many of them, asks you for not one answer but three. So for example in the very first question one is asked to name three famous victories of the Duke of Marlborough. The answer page is generous enough to allow you any 3 out of 4. As with the other Ptarmigan books these questions are an endearing mixture of the banal, the bemusing, and the genuinely thought-provoking.
Playtime (1947 - Ptarmigan 8)
Warning. This is not a quiz book by any stretch of the imagination, and I'll be honest, I only bought it and only include it here since it is in fact Ptarmigan number 8. The blurb says that it is designed to explain "How to play games of almost every kind - Parlour, and nursery, paper, and round, popular and less well-nown games. " The last 50 pages or so , though are where compiler and Ptarmigan editor Hubert Phillips really reveals his bias, where they are all word games, similar to his own Word Play (Ptarmigan number 4 ) . The cover is interesting. I have two copies of this, the second one I bought is the one in the picture, and it has the same cover style as the others from 5 onwards. In my original copy , the cover shows this to be pretty much a fully fledged yellow penguin, and in fact is very similar to the later "Can You Tell Me ? " - see below.
To Test Your Knowledge (1947 - Ptarmigan 9)
This one is designated Ptarmigan 9, although it was actually the first of the Ptarmigan books that I acquired. Basically I did a search on Amazon for Margaret Dixon, after buying her enjoyable "Can You Tell Me ? " and found this. Cheap at 1p plus packaging and postage, I think you'll agree.
Both of the Dixon's books are very big on mulitple questions, and some of these are good enough for me to use in quizzes, and I've even posted some of them onto my quiz blog, Life After Mastermind. One other thing I've noticed is that these slightly later books do have more pages than the earlier 1945 original ptarmigans.
Hutchinson - For Fun Quiz Books
A really nice little series these were, and they appeared fairly regularly from the mid 50s through until the mid 60s. They have several features I like, not least the very detailed explanation section that you get with the answers to the questions. Each one specialises in a specific subject, and they do make actually quite a large set. Written for kids, yes, but obviously in a time when General Knowledge was a lot more important for kids than it is now. I've found 11 of these, and none of the ones I own give any titles in the series that I don't have. Still, it's not impossible that there are more that I know nothing about. In which case, if you do know of any others, I'd be really grateful if you'd get in touch with me.
Scotland For Fun
This is one of a collection of really nice quiz books from Hutchinson. I currently own five of them. Fun is what it promises on the cover, and fun is what it delivers. Jack House in his introduction talks about his time on Round Britain Quiz, which is a good enough recommendation for me. Yeah alright this is very specialist, but I didn't buy it because I thought that it would make life easier for me as a question master. There are certainly questions that you can garner for a quiz, but this book was written at a time when compilers had the luxury of asking you questions you didn't already know the answer to !
A quality item with interesting questions, a sense of humour, and full explanations of the answers. Can't ask for a lot more than that.
Architecture for Fun (1963)
Yes, the same series of Hutchinson quiz books, although this one is concerned with Architecture , hence the title. I prefer the Scotland one slightly, although perversely this one probably has more questions I can use in quizzes.
The same comments that I made about the Scotland book also apply to this one. Explanations tend to be on the generous side, which is always a sign of quality in a quiz book, and the level of questions does not pander to the lowest common denominator. Of course the books suffer from the curse of all old quiz books , in that some of the information is out of date. Never mind - quality never goes out of fashion.
Science for Fun (1956)
'Science' and 'fun' are not two words I would ever have thought of putting together in any sentence not containing the word 'isn't'. But that's my problem and not something I need to bore you with any further. Luckily this is not a book that will bore you either, albeit that my comments about it might.
Another one in the HutchinsonEducational quiz books range this.A nice little buy, and I have to say that if I thought that the answers were detailed in the other books in the series, this one takes the custard cream ! There are 64 pages of questions, and no less than 100 pages of answers ! They don't make them like this anymore.
Archaeology for Fun (1964)
A relative baby of the Hutchinson – for Fun Quizbooks range, being as it was made in 1964, as indeed was I. Of course, you might think that Archaeology is rather a limited subject, and as such this would be of little practical use for quiz setting. In fact I thought so myself, I just liked the series, and so when it came up on ebay for pennies I thought it was worth a punt. Yet actually inside this book the word ‘archaeology encompasses prehistory – history – art – architecture, in fact quite a number of fair game topics for questions.
Music For Fun
Sport For Fun
English Literature for Fun
Mathematics for Fun
Art for Fun
Geography for Fun
History for Fun
Ernest Benn Regional Quiz Books
This is another really nice little series. There were at least 5, and I own all five of these. It seems odd to me that they never made one for the South West of the country, but I've never found any reference to them making one. As with many of the books in this part of my collection I get the distinct impression that they were made for kids - which is surprising considering just how many of these things you could actually ask in your local pub quiz today.
The North Country Quiz Book (1957)
Like the –for fun books, this was one of a series, which encompassed books about the Midlands , London and Scotland, and the Commonwealth as well. Its really rather nice, quite lavish with illustrations for a quiz book, some of which are even in colour.
Yes, it falls foul of the fact that some of the information is out of date. Still, although you’d think this might be a highly specialised geography quiz book it does actually cover quite a wide range of ground.Literature, History, Geography, Sport, just some of the separate subjects given their own sections, all admittedly with a North country slant, but then that’s why its called the North Country Quiz book, you see.
The Midlands Quiz Book (1957)
I first bought a paperback edition of the Midlands book, but once I had the other 4 in the original hardback with dust jackets it was only going to be a matter of time before I bought a hardback edition of it. Sad. You can make the same points about this as the previous one. Lavish illustrations are a plus. Yes, some of the information is out of date, as any Geography quiz book written before 1974 reorganisation would be, and you have to be wary if you want to use it to find questions for your quiz. But just as with the other books of the series its not just about Geography, but Sport, History, Literature etc.
The Commonwealth Quiz Book (1958)
This is interesting more as a historical quiz than anything else. The complexion of the Commonwealth has changed fairly drastically since the 50s, as you can appreciate. I don't think that the wind of change had blown through Africa, for one thing.
The London Quiz Book (1957)
I don't necessarily want to labour the point with these, especially since I'll basically be saying what I've already said about the other two books. Yes, you very much have to be wary - both London and the Commonwealth have changed a lot since the late 1950s. As with the others, though, they are neither just about Geography. They're nice things, and worth having on the shelves for decorative value alone anyway.
The Scottish Quiz Book (1957)
As far as I can ascertain these five make up the complete set, and what you can say about one of them you can say about all of them. Nice very decorative covers, a mixture of Geography, History , Literature - you name it. So I shan't labour the point.
However they're a nice little set, and if anyone should know of any others in the set, I'd love to hear from you about them.
Daily Mail Quiz Books
Not the greatest set of quiz books ever published, to be honest. However they were once very well known amongst quizzers of a certain age, and I remember my elders and betters mentioning them when I started out on the path to quizdom all those years ago. They look fabulous on your bookshelves, and have great colourful covers. The pocket book format is most appealing. As quiz books, though, they're no great shakes. I've no idea whether one shilling and sixpence was good value or not when they were published, but they're pretty much strictly of decorative value now.
Daily Mail Quiz Books No. 1 : London (1956) No.2 Aircraft: No. 3: Football: No. 4 : Ships (1957): No. 5: Animals: No. 6: Films: No.7: Food and Drink: No.8: Television : No 9:Birds (1958):No. 10 :Television: No.11: Fact or Fiction: No.12: Books
I must admit that I have fought shy of buying any of this particular series of books for a long time – well, be fair, they were published by the Daily Mail. But there we go, I couldn’t ignore them forever. So which better one to buy than the first of the whole series – no. 1, about London. There were actually 12 of these published in the series.
Calling it a quiz book may actually give you a false impression. The quiz itself is only contained in page 5 – 25. There are no answers as such either. Each question tells you on which page you’ll find the information that answers that question. So the vast majority of the first book, to give one example, is a miscellany of facts about London, and as such pretty interesting. But a quiz book ? Do me a favour.
Alright, a fool and his money and all of that. When the film book came up for pennies on ebay I bought it , of course. I think I'm not doing it a disservice when I say that its not , frankly, the finest quiz book that has ever been written . Well, there we go. Same criticisms apply - a mere 20 pages of questions was a stingy effort, even for the Daily Mail, and even for 1957. Nice covers, though, and I have to admit that as a set I thought when I bought the first couple that I wouldn't mind having them all on the shelves. So, over a couple of years I've collected all of them, and they're on the shelves. Trouble is, on the shelves is exactly where they stay.
For some reason - possibly the nice look of the things - these are a bit more popular than a lot of the books of the same vintage that you can find out there. So don't think that you're going to pick these up for a few pennies. Still, its quite reasonable to expect to get these for about a fiver, and that includes postage and packaging from a site such as ebay. There are some strange people who do think they are going to get up to £25 a piece for these on ebay. Needless to say they don't. I may be a fool for this sort of thing, but I'm not totally stupid. Frankly considering what you get a fiver is all of its money, and if you can get one for cheaper, then so much the better.
Gilbert Harding’s Question Book (1956)
For those to whom the name Gilbert Harding means nothing, he was an early BBC television personality in the 1950s, famous for his irascible appearences on “What’s My Line” and once nicknamed ‘The Rudest Man In Britain’. Frankly I doubt that he would have ever given Simon Cowell a run for his money, but I digress. I saw this on ebay, and bought it for a few pounds. The size of an old Guinness Book of Records, it’s primarily a kids’ quiz book. As with the TV top of the Form books, though, there’s lots of straight General Knowledge questions in this that you could cheerfully ask in your local pub quiz. For example – in section 5, question 32 asks – Who discovered Radium ? OK – no problem there – 2 points in the bag, it’s the Curies. OK – what about the question before – which fertilizer is made form the air ? – Ammonium Nitrate apparently – Royaume Uni , nul points. There’s a lot of questions here too – a couple of thousand by my estimate.As always, I went straight for the introduction. To be fair to Gilbert he has got in a few bon mots- try this : - “as all good teachers have found, it is much better to find out how much people know than how much they don’t know. “ AS a teacher myself – hopefully a quite good one, I can only agree. But more than that, doesn’t this get to the heart of one of the things which makes a difference between a good pub quiz and a bad pub quiz. In a good pub quiz, although you might not win, and you shouldn’t have been able to answer every question, at least you should be able to come away feeling pleased with something that you’ve known.
Can You Tell Me ? (1955
This is a yellow penguin, which were, I believe, the successors to the Ptarmigan imprint, although this one is only slightly newer than my newest Ptarmigan book. Its arranged in a very novel way. There are 50 quizzes in this book, and each one comprises of ten questions. However there are also five parts to each question. So if you count each of the seperately, that's actually about 2500 questions, which compares well with modern quiz books. The questions are many of them good old stagers, but there's more than enough to keep even serious quizzers going. Yes, I did pay over the odds for it, but money well spent I'd still say.
The Puffin Quiz Book (1956) (1961 Reprint) The Second Puffin Quiz Book
There are two books to the left because for a long time all I had was the purple one which was the reprint. Certainly better than nothing. Thanks to BBC's The One Show you had to pay through the nose if you wanted a copy of the original, the pink one alongside it. Up to May 2013 the couple of times I’d seen it on ebay it was still very reasonable. Then BBC1’s The One Show did a little feature on the lack of general knowledge amongst people today compared with yesteryear, and sent a presenter out onto the streets armed with the first Puffin Quiz book, to stop unsuspecting members of the public and ask them questions from it. The day after I saw one of them on ebay, and it was already the subject of a dozen offers. In the end I think it went for more than £15. Ah, the power of television.
It's a Norman and Margaret Dixon book, which means that you know what you're going to get - lots of multiples, and considering this is allegedly for 10 to 14 year olds some surprisingly difficult ones amongst the easier stuff.
As you can see, though, I did get hold of a copy of the original edition. It was mostly a matter of waiting it out until the price is right, and there's a lesson there for all of us, I dare say.
I do also have the second book. Pretty much everything you can say about the first book you can say about the second. There’s still a hell of a lot of stuff you could ask in a pub quiz now. A nice thing.
The Puffin Puzzle Book(1944) and The Second Puffin Puzzle Book (1959)
Not really a quiz book, but what the hell? The first one of this pair that I bought was actually the second book. I just couldn't resist it when I saw it on eBay some time back. It's got a lot of crosswords and brainteasers, but also some of the Ask the Family type puzzles which I've been known to put into my quizzes for the rugby club on occasion. You are right, by the way, that does say that the author's name is W.E.Gladstone. Oh yes, the former Liberal Prime Minister, who apparently has been a busy boy writing puzzles since his death. Hmmm. Reading the introduction I get the impression that this really was the gentleman's name. Maybe a relative. Who knows, or indeed cares?
Well, if you're a collector you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that if you get hold of a copy of the second book of whatever, you can't help wondering if you can get hold of a copy of the first one. EBay failed me, and I thought that the couple of offers on Amazon Used and New were a bit steep to be honest. So I put it on the back burner. Then one Saturday morning at a boot sale I saw it lying discarded amongst a pile of other books on the floor of a stall. When I asked what the seller wanted the tone of her voice suggested that she thought that 50p was pushing it. Well, I fought back my usual impulse to haggle and handed over the cash. It was published in the war, and so there's no real surprise that this very early Puffin is much thinner than the second book, published a decade and a half later. It's a nice thing, and I was delighted to find it in the boot sale. What's more, I have actually used it. Some of the puzzles in here are exactly the sort of thing I like to use with the kids in work once in a while, to get them thinking at the start of the day. Lots of these were easily rendered into powerpoint format, and they work an absolute treat.
The Wilfred Pickles Quiz Book
Wilfred Pickles has a certain niche in British Broadcasting history. He was probably the BBC's first 'professional Northerner' and was certainly the first man to read the news on the radio in a regional accent. In the years immediately after World War II and right though until the mid 60s Wilfred Pickles was a regular feature on radio and television, and his shows such as "Have A Go" were hugely popular.
And so to this, the Wilfred Pickles Quiz Book. Now I doubt that Mr. Pickles had anything more to do with this book other than lending it his name and (maybe) penning the one paragraph introduction, and posing for the photograph. What he's doing with the bag on his head I wouldn't even hazard a guess at. I don't blame him for presumably selling his name either. The introduction mentions "Have A Go", which didn't start until 1946, I think, so this is either late 40s or early 50s. It's not easy to tell because it is not dated anywhere. It's only 64 pages long, and the cover is very flimsy, and in this it resembles most of the quiz books I have which were produced during world war II, so I end to think it was produced in the 40s. It's slim and cheap (1'6 on the front cover) but the pages are determinedly crammed full of questions - not all of which are straightforward quiz questions either. It's a thing of its time, but none the worse for it, even if the £5 odd I paid for it was, frankly, all of its money.
General Knowledge Inquisition (1952)
Cards on the table, I really like this book.I was always going to bid for it on ebay when I saw that it was published in 1952. I got into a bit of a bidding war and ended up paying more than I wanted to for it - all of £2:30 plus p and p. Well, I have to say, its well worth it. There are 49 pages of questions. Hmm - that's not going to add up to a lot, is it ? Well, you might not think so, but every double page test squeezes in between 41 and 49 questions. That soon adds up, to over 1000, and it puts many modern quiz books, with their huge acres of white unprinted space on each page, to shame. I love old old quiz books. I love looking at the questions they ask, and how they're different from what you might be asked today. Remember that this was written long before today's quiz culture was even in embryonic form. There's no nonsense about this - it does exactly what it says on the tin.
Animal . Vegetable and Mineral Quiz (1961)
Another Blandford Press offering this, although ten years younger than the General Knowledge Inquisition. There's no link with the BBC radio programme of the same name. No, this just provides thirty sets of 20 questions - 600 in all. Some on animals, some on vegetables, and some on, well, I'm sure you get the drift. 600 questions is not to be sniffed at in a book which is only 60 pages long. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but there are a few which can catch you out. The Animal, Vegetable,Mineral thing is an interesting gimmick, although it doesn't reduce the questions in range as much as you might otherwise think. You see, human beings are animals, and so lots of the animal questions do concern individual people. Oh well, its a decent thing in its own right.
Let's Have a Quiz
Another Blandford Press quiz book, although this one isn't dated.I'm guessing late 50s from the style of the line drawings inside. If I'm honest I think this one is a little bit more for the kids than the previous two. The questions are split into categories - pretty standard sort of stuff too - animals, birds, transport - I could go on but you get the gist. Not a lot there which you's even bother to ask as gimmes in your local pub quiz. It's a bit of a shame, but there you are, when you buy these things you are taking a gamble. Sometimes they pays off, and sometimes they don't. I'd rather have it in the collection than not, though.
When I saw the blue one I didn't know whether it was the same as the pink one, just with a different couple. It was only pennies, so I bought it on the off chance. Did the gamble pay off ? Well, yes and no. I believe that it's a newer edition, since the categories are pretty much in the same order as in the other book, and a significant number of the questions are the same. Not all of them though - quite a few have been dropped, with others substitued in their place. So my guess is that this is an updated edition of the other one. Well, I guess that some you win and some you lose. Such is life, and it's fair enough - nobody forces me to buy these things, I suppose. I'd still rather have it than not have it if you see what I mean.
Blandford Press again. Similar in size and concept to the two Lets Have A Quiz books. This one basically asks questions and the answers are alphabetical. Well, it's just a gimmick to ask a few more questions, I suppose. This is the things about these particular quiz books - so many of this age look as if they were made for kids, and were actually made for kids, and yet . . . there's an awful lot that you could ask in your pub quiz in your local.
The latest Blandford Press quiz book that I've found. The same comments that I've made about the rest of this publisher's quiz books apply to this. With the exception that the questions are all based on English Literature. I'll be honest, I'd like to think that my own English Literature quiz book for the Kindle is better value, but still , it is what it is, and what it is really isn't bad at all.
Jack Cardwell's Football Quiz Book (c.1959)
I suppose it all begs the question - who the hell was Jack Cardwell? Don't know. There's an advert in the back of the book for Jack's book giving you tips on winning the pools - good luck with that. So let's content ourselves with looking at his football quiz book. For your 2/6 in about 1959 you got 70 pages. Only 40 of these are question pages - the rest are pages of crossword puzzles and answers. But - and this is the clincher - on the question pages you don't half get a lot of them. The typeface is VERY small indeed, but this means that they've crammed the questions in - over 1000 by my reckoning. The explanations in the answers section are very generous too, and you know how important that is to me. Nice little paperback.
Arthur Groom's Red Quiz Book (1961)
Arthur Groom's Green Quiz Book (1961)
No, I don’t know who Arthur Groom was either. These 1961 efforts are among the least impressive of my veteran quiz books. Or at least that is until you realise that they were written for children. Like the earlier Top of the Form quiz book, and the later TV Top of the Form quiz books, they do actually ask some questions you wouldn’t be ashamed to ask in your local pub quiz. Just flicking through the red book I noticed that one of the questions asks them to name the German island that once belonged to Britain. I wonder how many adults now would know Heligoland, let alone children.
They're not great books, though. Too many questions are of the true or false/ yes or no variety. You find yourself getting frustrated with the brevity and simplicity of them.
Believe it Or Not It Happened in Yorkshire – A Yorkshire Quiz
What a funny little thing this item is. It has no date on it, but I’d guess late 50s /early 60s. This looks a little like an old football programme from the same era. Instead it is absolutely chock full of questions about weird and wonderful Yorkshire factoids – and that long before the term factoid was even invented. It’s a slim volume, and many of the pages are taken up with the answers – because they are incredibly detailed. You know how much this is something I can really appreciate.
I have a rather pathetic habit, which is that I have to justify buying these books by using at least one question out of each for a quiz, which enables me to think of them as working books, and at least I did manage to find a couple from this that I could ask, even in Wales.
Quiz For Railwaymen and Railway Lovers
This can't really be called a quiz book at all, in fact it barely qualifies as a quiz booklet , to be honest. Well, you pays your money, as they say, and the money I paid for this one was so negligible that any complaints about its lack of content seem churlish in the extreme. So, does that make me a railway lover ? Not for the last 30 years or so, no, but yes, when I was a kid I could certainly tell my pacifics from my 4-6-0s, and my LNER from my LMS. Look, I wouldn't ever have bought this for its value to me as a source of questions, since I probably already know more than I'll ever need to know about railways for quizzes. Still, it didn't cost a great deal, and it doesn't take up a great deal of space.
Ian Allan Railway Quiz
Well, a lot of what I said about the above book can be said about this one. Except that it is, if anything, smaller! It's about the dimensions of a pocket diary, although containing nothing like as many pages. There's 275 questions squeezed between the pages, and a few pictures as well. Why buy it? Well, it's old , dating I would guess from the 60s. AS I said earlier, I used to be a trainspotter when I was a kid, and the name Ian Allen is redolent of little books full of numbers. And it has a Gresley A4 pacific on the front as well - I mean, what more would you ask for? (Don't answer that).
Hubert Phillips Quiz Annual ( 1947 )
This was published by the News Chronicle, an erstwhile British daily newspaper which ceased publication in 1960 when it became part of the Daily Mail. I'm not so bothered about that. What interests me is the name Hubert Phillips. You may have noticed that this was the man who was the editor of the Ptarmigan series published by Penguin and described above. How successful must a quiz setter have been to have his own named annual ? This nice little item is a lot thinner than the Ptarmigans, but is very similar in format to Ask Me Another. I can't help feeling that if by some miracle of time travel I'd ever met Mr. Phillips, the two of us would have got on rather well. This comes from the introduction to the book : -"The selection of subjects is arbitrary. The underlying idea is merely that most of them appeal to the majority of people known to me. I should be sorry to have to compile a book for readers who were interested neither in Shakespeare, Jane Austen, of Lyric Poetry; in Cats and Dogs, Horses, or the English Countryside; in Music, Ballet or Art. " Well, quite.
News Chronicle Quiz No. 1 -8
Uncle Hubert Phillips again. In fact I'm pretty sure that these eight were what fed into the annual above and it's predecessor and followers. So what you get are both very much the tried and tested Hubert Phillips formula, which is absolutely fine by me. As it is, History is one of my banker subjects anyway. For that matter, so is English Literature - it was my degree subject, and English is what I teach. But then I didn't buy these books because I thought that they might add all that greatly to my store of quiz knowledge anyway. They're really not very big, and not very thick at all, but then I doubt that sixpence was a lot of money even in 1946. One point of interest as well is the caricature of Hubert Phillips himself on the front covers. The full set are: -
1) English Literature
3) English History
4) Current Affairs
6) Natural History
7) The Bible
Now, I will say one thing about this. The fact is that although each one sets itself up as a themed quiz book, it really wasn't. Each of them is a general knowledge quiz book, in which only every 5th question is on the named topic. Oh well.
It really took a while to get the full set of these, then suddenly I found someone selling the set for a pound a throw on Ebay. Yippee!
How Much Do You Know ? (1961)
A veritable whippersnapper, this one, being only three years older than I am myself. As for the question - how much do I know, well, the answer is quite a lot, certainly if the questions here are anything to go by. Its a thin paperback of only 64 pages, and 29 of these pages are devoted to answers. Which is actually rather a good sign, since as you know by now detailed explanations of answers is a sign of quality to look out for. As tends to be true of books of this vintage, questions are crammed in, and there's a few hundred in here, all in different categories. Its similar in scope and level to the Ptarmigan books, and to the General Knowledge Inquisition book, and that's no bad recommendation.
What Do You Know? (1964)
Hmm, this is a relative whippersnapper, dating, like me, from 1964. My, but its back cover is boastful. Listen to this: - “This is a quiz book with a difference! It is almost certain to make the reader think harder than any other general knowledge book of questions and answers.” That’s fighting talk there, pardner. Well, see what you think. The book is organized in themed sections, or ‘tests’. Let me give you a few from test six – the British Isles. You tell me how hard you think they are:-
“Which is furthest west – Liverpool, Edinburgh or Gloucester?
Name the Cinque Ports
Name the four provinces of Ireland
What does Aber – as in Aberdeen and Aberavon mean?
Where are The Needles?
Where is the Black Country?
What is strange about the Isles of Thanet, Ely and Dogs?
Which is the longest river in the British Isles?
Name any of the four inhabited Scilly Isles
Who was John O’Groats?”
That’s half the questions in the round, but you get the point, I’m sure. There’s nothing intrinsically bad about these questions, but come on, they’re no harder than you get in many another quiz book, be it older than, younger than, or contemporary with this. It’s perfectly fine and serviceable, but I just got annoyed by the claims on the back.
The Shilling All Ways Up to Date Bible Quiz
I quote from the introduction "That a well-run Bible Quiz can be both interesting and very profitable is by now almost universally accepted. The method has definitely arrived ! How then shall the Bible Quiz be kept on the highest lines and, without losing any of its happiness and interest, be made to yield its fuyll quota of value in increased Bible knowledge ? " Well,this booklet doesn't say when it was printed,, although I'm guessing we're talking about the 50s here, but even back in the day I would say that this intro is actually taking quite a lot for granted. Was it really universally accepted in the 1950s that a well run Bible quiz could be interesting and profitable too ? Why profitable as well ? Was he suggesting that people try to make a fast buck out of the word of the Lord ? Not very christian, I would have thought. Alright, enough of such scoffing. This is loaded with Bible questions, despite being only 32 pages long. The good thing about it as well is that these questions can't go out of date. Out of fashion perhaps, but a correct answer 60 years ago will still be a correct answer 60 years from now.
The Bible Quiz Book (1951)
No, I don't have a thing specifically about Bible quizzes. I have a thing about old quiz books. This one is hardback, and it's, well, it's a bit strange. Compiled by a chap called Sid Hedges - now there is a good 1950's name for you - it's full of questions. However the format means that the answers come immediately after each of the questions. On the same line. Well, in most cases. Not all questions actually do come with answers either. Some of the questions are just statements, and then after it will say true or false. Or there will be just a list, and you have to figure out it's asking for the link, or the odd one out, or whatever. To be fair good old Sid does explain how this works in his introduction, but it's rather fiddly and fussy. However, you have to pay tribute to the fact that there are close to 3000 questions in the book - because it's all question pages once the introduction is over - there's no answer pages.
A Yorkshire Quiz (1946)
Another booklet, this. Again, I'd like to quote from the introduction : -"This little book is for your entertainment, and perhaps instruction, at your fireside, on bus or train, in smoke-room or common-room, at guest house or hostel, or even on a fell top as you catch your breath. " My goodness, but it practically reeks of a bygone age - which is just one thing that makes it irresistible. By crickey, though, you need to know Yorkshire to be able to answer the questions in this - and unfortunately I just don't. A mere 142 questions in 32 pages, but it's a lovely little thing.
The Hunting Quiz Book (1968)
Gulp. Look, hunting is an issue which arouses strong feelings on both sides of the debate. Personally I dislike it intensely, but then I'm a townie, so I would say that. I would never have bought anything to do with this activity , other than, well, its a quiz book. An old quiz book. Thre's 72 pages, and its crammed full of questions, and yes, they are all to do with hunting. Its probably one of th emost specialist, and least useful quiz books I have, and I wouldn't have bought it if it hadn't have made a really quirky and unusual addition to the collection. But it does just that. Purely a decorative item, though, in the sense that I can't really using this as a question source even.
The Collins General Knowledge Quiz Book 1, 2, 3,4(1961)
A lean and mean 48 pages , in about A4 size. These are actually little more than booklet quizzes despite the glossy covers, but nonetheless each of the four does cram in 1000 questions. Thinking of the acres of white space you find in some of today's quiz books, I find that rather admirable. Aimed I venture to say at the kid's market, and yet questions you wouldn't mind asking down your local pub quiz can be found within - for example - what does UNESCO stand for ? It does kind of beg the question when did we stop expecting kids to know this kind of thing ? Collins produced, I believe, four volumes of these, and I have all four now. First one was dirt cheap, the next three, well, I could have paid $50 for each if I was totally stupid. However I'm not totally stupid, and I bided my time, and picked up each of them one at a time for a lot less. . Ah, quiz book sets. Some sellers really seem to think have you over a barrel if you want to have the whole set.
The Collins Shakespeare Quiz Book (1961)
To me this is fairly clearly a companion to the book above. Much of the same comments you can make about the General Knowledge book you can make about this one. Except. . . well, it's Shakespeare, for a start. I mean, did a quiz book for kids - on the works of Shakespeare - ever sell enough copies to justify a print run? Heaven alone knows - I certainly don't. Still, for these reasons it has at least a certain novelty value. It's a nice addition to the collection, and I was always going to chance my arm with a bid when it came up on that popular internet auction site. To be honest, you can't ask anything more complicated about Shakespeare down the club than what's in here anyway. So it will eventually earn its keep.
The Collins Bible Quiz Book (c. 1961)
The Collins Bible Quiz Book 2
Yes, same stable as the two previous books. I'll be honest, I have plenty of other sources for bible questions, so wasn't in desperate need of this one, as such. But, ah, it is part of a set of sorts, isn't it. and that's enough for me. It might even have been quite popular in its day, for Collins did actually publish a second bible quiz book a year or two later. They also made a West Africa Quiz book too, but that one really is pricey, for something that would be extremely out of date and of relatively little use. I'd like it, but then it would be of purely decorative value, and I've promised myself that I won't pay through the nose for what are just going to be 'sitting on the shelf and looking pretty' books. So I did contact the seller, explained my feelings, and used the - half a bird in the bush is better than a bird on the shelves - argument. Not having it at all, I'm afraid - still, it cost nothing to ask.
The most recent specialist one I obtained was the one above, a second bible quiz book. I wonder that the first was successful enough to merit a second, but hey, it's there, and so it must have been.
TV Quiz Books 1 - 4 (Glasgow Literary Press - c. 1960)
These are similar in size, presentation and composition to the Collins set above. Hardly surprising since all the questions were taken from the Collins Encyclopaedia, and not only that, but they were compiled by the same man who compiled the Collins books, one J.B.Foreman.
I have mixed feelings about these. They're old quiz books so I'm naturally predisposed towards them, but I do get annoyed about the big thing the covers make about TV. These aren't TV quiz books in any way. They are not about TV. They are not actually linked to any programme of the time in any way. Well, they were a popular enough set back int he day, and plenty of them still turn up on eBay fairly regularly. I picked up the whole set fo less than a tenner, and I would say that was fair.
The Students' Companion (1958)
You can to a large extent tell how old a quizzer is by the speed with which they can answer a question about , say, collective nouns. Over 50s literally lap them up, and why ? Because you used to be taught that sort of thing in school. Under 45s much less so, and that's probably why such questions are becoming far more of a rarity in quizzes today. This book was published in 1958, and it isn't a quiz book. However it is a veritable cornucopia of this sort of knowledge, without which ones education used to be deemed incomplete. Categories are broadly divided into 9 sections dealing with words and the English Language, 1 on Geography, one on General Knowldge, and one on Civics - the sort of thing which today would be probably given the heading United Kingdom. Its brilliant, if for no other reason than it conjures up a bygone age when the acquisition of knowledge was not viewed as an outmoded educational concept - and there's stuff you can use to help you make questions too !
Forfeits Quiz (c.1950)
A funny little thing this. A bare 38 pages, with 300 questions and answers. The questions are absolutely fine, and indeed, when I read the first quiz of 10 questions I thought that 9 of them could easily be asked in the rugby club quiz next week. Depending on who was question master of course. But the really funny thing about this is that at the end of each round, there is a list of five forfeits which can be given to people who get the answers wrong. And there was me thinking that quizzing was a serious business. Let me give you a flavor of the sort of forfeit "Read a news item in the voice of a child of five." And yet it never caught on. What were the chances of that happening, eh?
World War II Quiz Books
The next three books were all produced and published during the war. The interesting thing is that despite wartime restrictions, paper quality is still a lot better than you get in most quiz books published today.
It’s a very thin, very small booklet from world war II, not that much bigger than a pamphlet really, of games and quizzes to play in an air raid shelter . It was published by the Guardian press, price 6d, and the title of it is actually “Buzz”. Isn’t it funny how some things come around again and again? “Buzz” as I’m sure you know, is the name for the interactive quiz games you can buy for the playstation 2/3 etc.
It was intended for use , and I quote ,
“ . . . not only in the home, and for parties, but also in public shelters, ARP quarters, or on fire watching duty.” Isn’t that rather something? It sells itself as a handbook for a spelling bee game, but this only makes up the first few pages of the book. There are actually 31 pages of questions – albeit small pages, and these manage to cram in 277 questions. They’re an interesting mixture, with rounds on quotations, general knowledge, who wrote what , countries and capitals, London, where in the world, song lyrics, sport, kings and queens advertisements ( contemporary with the book, obviously ) and cryptic clues to film and radio stars. The answers to the questions come in a slightly smaller booklet within the booklet.
I just really like the idea of the humble quiz being used to keep the spirits up at that particular time in history. It’s a nice little item, and a welcome addition to the collection.
Use Your Brains
This is the second of our trio of world war II published quizbooks. If you look at the front cover you could be forgiven for thinking that its actually quite a bit younger, what with the bold heading, and the unexpected splash of colour. Well, there is a hint with the soldier you can just make out in the photo, sharing a little family time.
This is a cut above Buzz in terms of production, very much the higher end of the market, although you have to say that its contents are pretty similar. I don't honestly know whether it just wasn't the done thing to only ask straight questions at the time, but this is similar to Buzz in as much as its a mixture of straight questions, and more cryptic stuff. One nice touch is a section where adverts - obviously of the time - are reprinted with brand names removed, and you have to say what it is that they are advertising. A nice thing.
What Do You Know?
This was written by Neil Munro, who was the co compiler of the previous book, "Use Your Brains". It was published in 1945, and the introduction makes much of the fact that Neil Munro was a well known BBC radio producer at the time, who was known as the 'puzzle king'. Which explains why the nature of most of the rounds are of more of a puzzle nature. So as a useable quiz book it's really no great shakes. But what the hell. I love this sort of thing, and if the price is fair I'll always make a bid if I see one come up for sale on eBay ( other internet auction sites are available).
What Do You Know ?
About this book ? Not a lot. There's no date in it, but its obviously second world war, from the fact that one of the questions asks who was Prime Minister at the start of the war, down to the cartoons of Hitler which accompany some of the questions. Its of a similar size to Buzz, which it resembles a lot. The cover trumpets the fact that there are over 300 questions inside. Wowee. That's Monday and Tuesday evening taken care of - now what were you supposed to do for the rest of the week. Well, I shouldn't be sarcastic. Its interesting to read the questions - its nice to see how many old chestnuts that still get asked are to be found amongst the 300 or so in here.
Filmgoers Quiz (Dance News Weekly 1943)
Another World war II book which is in very good condition. I say book, but actually it's only just big enough to be a booklet. This has 611 questions and answers squeezed into 31 pages, 2 of which have a foreword, some adverts and no questions or answers. It's a straight, honest film quiz book. Admittedly, there is a huge bias towards films released between 1935 - 43, but then it couldn't very well ask about films released after 1943 could it? There's actually some very good questions here too - if you love films, and you know your film history there's plenty to keep you going. Well worth the few bob I paid for it on eBay. Nice thing.
The Mitre Quiz Book (1944)
This wee book is in remarkable condition being as it’s 69 years old at time of writing. Unlike some of the similar world war II quiz books in my collection, this one does exactly what it says. It’s a quiz book, with questions and with answer, and that’s it. No games, no puzzles, just questions. I like that. There are only 15 pages, and so in order to squeeze in 236 questions and their answers, the typeface is really small. Why 236 questions, rather than an even 230? I have no idea, but that’s what you get with this sort of thing. Questions are straightforward, and I tell you what, you could easily find some good old chestnuts in this to ask in your local pub quiz. A nice thing.
The Forces Quiz Book (C.1943)
This is a very recent purchase. I'll be honest, I keep a regular eye out for this sort of thing, and if they can be had for what I consider to be a reasonable price I will always chance my arm with a bid. This book is actually exactly what it says - a book - well, a small booklet - which has a quiz about the Armed Forces. My goodness, but they squeezed the questions in on this one. There are over 700 questions here, squeezed into a very few pages. They're even printed on the inside covers. I approve of this. I don't actually approve of having such small print that it makes this book very difficult to me, but hey, there was a war on.