Usborne books

Posted in Books > Usborne books | 5 Comments »
1973 to present

Bags me the nuclear powered artificial heart!From the 1970s onward, Peter Usborne’s children’s factual publishing empire was the Oxford University Press for the pre-secondary set. Their colourful info-packed tomes, liberally sprinkled with friendly, big-nosed cartoon characters, were the darlings of the school library (when The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was on loan, at least). The Usborne Book of Things to do on a Rainy Day was a self-explanatory favourite. Two friendly, big-nosed cartoon clowns guided the indoor-bound reader through a plethora of homely activities: growing washing soda crystals, making paper hats, etc. The friendly, big-nosed, overcoated spies dotted throughout the Usborne Spy’s Guidebook inhabited an exciting world where unbreakable codes could be written on a belt wrapped round an old stick, and oppressive Eastern Bloc governments thwarted with the cunning deployment of lemon juice as writing medium. More heavyweight was the Usborne Book of World Geography, a comprehensive guide to the friendly, big-nosed peoples of the Earth, full of inoffensively rendered world facts. For instance, comparative gross national product was indicated by figures in national dress holding appropriately scaled money bags: while a sheikh from the United Arab Emirates rejoiced in his ten-foot sack, a peasant representing Bhutan put a bravely cheery face on his golf ball-sized pouch. Best of all, however, was 1979’s Usborne Book of The Future: A Trip in Time to the Year 2000 and Beyond: a mind boggling grab-bag of never-going-to-happen wonders like lunar Olympics, nuclear-powered artificial super-hearts, domed underwater cities, and Jupiter being taken apart and rebuilt as a big shell around the sun, for some unfathomable reason. Its timeline of inventions from 1980 to the twenty-second century has, twenty-five years in, so far proved to be something of a disappointment to the legion of thirtysomethings still awaiting that robot butler.

TV CREAM SAYS: BOOK OF THE FUTURE WENT A BIT WEIRD AT THE END, PREDICTING THE 'BIRTH OF A NEW SUPER-RACE' BY 2100. THOSE CRAZY RIGHT-WING 1970S FUTUROLOGISTS!

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5 Responses to “Usborne books”

  1. Andy Elms says:

    We had several, Computers, How things are Made (inclduing final chapter, How this book is made), and the legendary Machine Code for Beginners. None more eighties.

    Although I seem to recall rotund stick figures rather than big noses, but never mind.

  2. Adz says:

    Damn! Another unlooked-for treasure consigned to a jumble sale years ago!

    The history book was pretty good as well

  3. Paul Gatenby says:

    The Usborne books of Ghosts and Vampires were beautifully illustrated. Nobody who read them can forget Geoff the Talking Mongoose from the Isle of Man, the oriental vampire that sat on it’s tomb and chewed its shroud and the man-eating Japanese Kappa river spirit, half-monkey, half-tortoise!

  4. Richard Davies says:

    I remember my school library had loads of Usborne books, many with 8-bit computer listings at the back.

    Me & my brother had many at home as well, I’ve still got some but a few went in a charity bag.

    I found a combined Ghosts Monster & UFOs volume on e-bay a couple of years ago.

  5. doris says:

    Here is a link to the book of the future in PDF-

    http://life.enhasa.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/The%20Usborne%20Book%20of%20the%20Future.pdf

    I looked the book up on Amazon yesterday and was delighted to find Dave Jefferis, who co-wrote the book with Kenneth Gatland, lurking on the books page.

    I told him I finally own a ‘risto’.

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