GWR sale publications


In the early days of the Great Western Railway, publicity was limited to the publication of handbills, advertisements in newspapers and the publication of timetables. Guide books from independant publishers started to appear as travel for pleasure became both easier and more popular, and these provided a degree of free publicity for the Company who would often contribute material and advertise them in the train timetables. The publication of books for sale to the general public did not really get underway until 1904 but by the end of 1947 millions of publications had been sold and the GWR had gained a well earned reputation as a publisher of quality material. It is reported that much of the published works were sold at near cost-price, the aim was to build prestige, reputation and traffic for the Company who were effectively getting the public to pay for its publicity.

Publications were advertised in newspapers and magazines and no opportunity was missed to publicise other books within GWR publications themselves, sometimes by the inclusion of printed flyers such as those illustrated here within books or, from the late 1920s, in jigsaw boxes. Starting in 1927 a small booklet was published called The Literature of Locomotion and subtitled as being a 'Catalogue of Travel Guides & Jig-Saw Puzzles, etc.' which were 'Obtainable from any G.W.R. Station or Office, Railway Bookstall, your Bookseller' or direct from the appropriate department using an included order form. This booklet listed many of the books and jigsaws that would be available at the time of publication. It was updated and re-issued, sometimes several times in a year, and went on to a final total of 35 editions when publication ceased in 1939.

As with subjects chosen for the GWR series of jigsaw puzzles, the publications which the GWR produced for sale to the general public fell into three broad categories, travel books highlighting destinations or regions served by the GWR, books covering the history of the GWR or that of places of interest which could be visited by means of the GWR, and books promoting the Company's services or technical and engineering achievements. In addition to the many books there were, amongst others, several series of postcards, a series of 48 leaflets on the legends of the West Country (later collected into a series of four books), the Catherdal Guide series of leaflets, and even sets of 'magic lantern' slides which could be hired for illustrated talks. All of course squarely aimed at promoting the greater use of the Great Western Railway, with a particluar eye on holiday traffic.

We are not attempting to produce a comprehensive catalogue or history of the many publications produced by the GWR for sale to the public, but to simply provide a brief glimpse by showing some of those which are held in our collection.

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Choose a book series or topic from the menu bar to see those books held in our collection
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