The World in One Volume: Whitaker’s at 150
Heralding the turn of the year, the new edition of Whitaker’s 2018 is now on the shelves in the quick reference section in all our libraries. This is the 150th edition of this seminal reference work.
It was first published in December 1868 and the astronomical information contained within it covered the coming year as is still the case today. Its full title was An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord 1869. As with a lot of reference titles it is known by its first publisher’s name and is simply referred to as Whitaker’s.
The first volume was such a huge success it had to be reprinted. 60,000 volumes were sold. It was written and published by Joseph Whitaker, who was an editor for the Gentleman’s Magazine and who had also started The Bookseller. The latter magazine is still going today and you can read the current edition at the Information & Reference Library .
The earliest edition we have in the Information & Reference Library dates from 1870 but we have an unbroken run to the current 2018 edition. The early editions are full of the kind of facts, figures and information that may be difficult to find elsewhere. For example, you can discover the composition of the 1895 government, the rates of income tax in 1910, how much the senior ranks in the Army and Navy were paid in 1875, or what country fairs were to be held in 1878. Whitaker’s has all these details and more besides.
The publishers of Whitaker’s describe it as the ultimate single-volume reference source. It is packed with thousands of facts, figures, overviews and statistics relating to the UK and the world. The information in each edition is carefully verified and updated and staff spend 6,000 hours a year doing this. For example, for the 148th edition an editor spend an entire day contacting individual departments of HM Treasury to ascertain the correct name of each minister’s Private Secretary – information which is just not available elsewhere, including the gov.uk website. Unfortunately, like all printed reference works, while the information may be up-to-date when it is researched and published, it may not be so accurate in six months’ time.
So, remember this invaluable work of reference the next time you need a list of all Dames in the UK as of 31 August 2017, the life expectancy in Andorra, or the number of full-time professors in higher education. This single volume will provide the answers.
And if you weren’t aware, every year there is a fiendishly difficult quiz which can only be answered using the contents of the current volume. The quiz can be downloaded from the Whitaker’s website and the prize is £500. But you’ll have to hurry as the closing date is 31 January 2018.