I expect many of you will already know of Shire Books or even have some of them on your bookshelves.
For more than fifty years Shire has produced slim, inexpensive, non-fiction written by experts and enthusiasts on a wide range of specialist topics, some decidedly recherché and perhaps the only books on their subjects.
I admit to being a complete Shire junkie, having collected them for over 25 years, from their rather quaint black and white original format to their full colour ones of today.
The Shire Story
1962 saw the beginning of Shire Books. There were originally two partners in the venture – John Hinton and John Rotheroe, both of them in full-time employment in advertising in London. Their first book was just 24 pages long and called Discovering East Suffolk and it was John Hinton who suggested the name of Shire for their small publishing company. Several more Discovering titles followed and when, in 1967, Discovering Brasses was an immediate success, John Rotheroe commissioned several authors to write for his Discovering series.
From 1974 until 2007 Shire was based in the twin-gabled 17th century Cromwell House in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire. The staff saw the list expand massively – some titles were published only once but some, such as Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings, sold in excess of 100,000 copies, so that by the 1980s, Shire Books had become something of a British institution.
In 2007, after 45 years, John Rotheroe retired, selling his company to Osprey Publishing, a company noted for its military history books. The list was expanded, the Albums (another series) were updated, and there was a total makeover: more pages which would allow each subject to be covered in more depth and with colour printing throughout.
And then along came more expensive, larger format Shire Books …
And some lovely social history Shire Books …
In 1972 a second series – Lifelines – was launched.I had a quick count of my collection the other day and surprised even myself as I have 280. Many were very inexpensively purchased for pence, some were rather more expensive but never more than two or three pounds, and some of them were review copies from Shire when I was needing information for my magazine articles (and, of course, I always credited Shire Books for such information.) Another plus, and not one to be overlooked, is that because they are slender volumes, you can fit a substantial number of them onto your shelves without their taking up too much space!
Shire Books are now published by Bloomsbury Publishing and I understand they are now printed-on-demand. They will remain, though, my first port-of-call when researching a new-to-me topic. My goodness, there are even now Shire USA titles, such as Airstream, King of the RVs, and Route 66. But whatever subject you are interested in, there will undoubtedly be a Shire Book for you.
Have you any Shires on your shelves?