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PENGUIN OBSERVER BOOKS




THIS PAGE 'N' N1 - N31





This series of attractive pocket books was originally launched by Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd. in 1937 when they published the Observer's Book of British Birds. These books, measuring 5½ x 3½ ins with numerous colour plates, were published by Frederick Warne in plain hard covers with illustrated dustwrappers. The series had a strong focus on natural history.

Their last book, number 98, was published in 1982 when Warne became part of the Penguin Group.

The acquisition of the Frederick Warne publishing house by Penguin Books included not only well-known children's fiction such as the books of Beatrix Potter, but also the non-fiction Observer's series. These The Observer's Book of... volumes were well illustrated, affordable and pocket-sized and became popular reference books.

However, by the 1980s their popularity was waning and in 1983, after the company had been taken over by Penguin, a paperback The New Observer's Book of ... series of 25 volumes appeared with an 'N' prefix to the number of each book in the series. Most of the titles could be found in the original hardback series but Airliners, Athletics, Tractors and Warships were new and Stamp Collecting replaced the old Observer's Book of Postage Stamps. This series of paperbacks was issued until 1986 and had the name 'Warne' on the spine and retained a Warne ISBN. This 'N' series showed no Penguin logo, the only indication that the books were published by them being the usual list of Penguin company addresses on the reverse of the title page.

This new approach did not generate significantly larger sales, and in 1987 the books were re-branded just as Observers books, dropping the apostrophe, but with most titles continuing as before. The Penguin symbol now appeared on the spine of the book but not on the front or rear cover. Athletics and Tractors were short-lived, and along with Soccer they were replaced by some of the stalwarts from the original hardback series, Birds, Cats, Insects, Trees, Canals and Butterflies. The 1987 edition of Observers Birds has '50th Anniversary Edition' printed on the front cover but the inclusion of this and other well-established natural history titles from the original series did little to improve matters. This second series of paperbacks was numbered up to N31 but only comprised 26 books as some were not issued. The paperbacks were relatively expensive, the 1989 Butterflies having a cover price of £3.99, sometimes with a £4.99 price sticker over this.

After this series ceased in 1992, three further attempts were made to issue Observer's books as hardbacks. The first of these were thirty unnumbered volumes published in 1992/3. Another series of eight hardbacks with different format covers appeared in 1992. Both these series were published by Bloomsbury Books an imprint of the Godfrey Cave Group, under licence from Penguin. Finally, a dozen hardbacks were published in 1996 by Claremont books, also an imprint of Godfrey Cave. All of these books bore the usual Penguin device in its orange oval background on the front cover.

The entries on this page cover the 26 paperback 'N' series Observers books bearing the Penguin device on the spines, published by Penguin between 1987 and 1992.

The idea for this page was suggested by Paul Lickiss and he has kindly supplied the information and images for all entries. We are extremely grateful to him.




Information and cover photographs of Penguin Observer Books Series:

N 1
Series No.: N 1
Title: AIRCRAFT
Author: William Green
Illustrations: silhouettes by Dennis Punnett
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 11 (1949)
Pages: 256pp.
Printer: Butler and Tanner Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 2
Series No.: N 2
Title: CARS
Author: Stuart Bladon
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 21 (Automobiles, 1955)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 3
Series No.: N 3
Title: WILD FLOWERS
Author: Francis Rose
Illustrated: by R. B. Davis
Date Published: 1988
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 2 (British Wild Fowers, 1937; Wild Flowers, 1954)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 4
Series No.: N 4
Title: AIRLINERS
Author: William Green and Gordon Swanborough
Illustrations: silhouettes by Dennis Punnett
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: (no number issued: Airplanes, 1942)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 5
Series No.: N 5
Title: WARSHIPS
Author: Hugh W. Cowin
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: did not appear in the original series
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 6
Series No.: N 6
THIS NUMBER (N 6) WAS NOT USED.

Was issued as Cricket in the first N series 1983-6
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 49 (1973)


Information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 7
Series No.: N 7
Title: ASTRONOMY
Author: Patrick Moore
Specially drawn plates: by L. F. Ball
Date Published: 1988
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 32 (1962)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 8
Series No.: N 8
Title: DOGS
Author: Catherine G. Sutton
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 8 (1945)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 9
Series No.: N 9
Title: TROPICAL FISHES
Author: Neil Wainwright
Illustrations: 90 colour illustrations by Baz East
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 65 (1976)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 10
Series No.: N 10
Title: HORSES AND PONIES
Author: Jane Kidd
Photographs: by Sally Anne Thompson
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 29 (1949)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 11
Series No.: N 11
Title: FLAGS
Author: William Crampton
Date Published: 1988
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 29 (1959)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 12
Series No.: N 12
Title: TANKS AND OTHER ARMOURED VEHICLES
Author: Charles Messenger
Illustrations: silhouettes by Michael Badrocke
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 89 (1981)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: Butler and Tanner Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 13
Series No.: N 13
THIS NUMBER (N 13) WAS NOT USED.

Was issued as Athletics in the first N series 1983-6


Information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 14
Series No.: N 14
Title: COARSE FISHING
Author: Peter Wheat
Drawings: by Baz East
Date Published: 1989
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 59 (1976)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.99

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 15
Series No.: N 15
Title: FLY FISHING
Author: Peter Wheat
Drawings: by Baz East
Date Published: 1989
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 68 (1977)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.99

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 16
Series No.: N 16
THIS NUMBER (N 16) WAS NOT USED.

Was issued as Soccer in the first N series 1983-6
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 47 (Association Football, 1972; Soccer, 1978)

Information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 17
Series No.: N 17
Title: BRITISH STEAM LOCOMOTIVES
Author: H. C. Casserley
Date Published: 1988
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 23 (Railways Locomotives of Britain, 1955; British Steam Locomotives, 1974)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 18
Series No.: N 18
THIS NUMBER (N 18) WAS NOT USED.

Was issued as Tractors in the first N series 1983-6


Information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 19
Series No.: N 19
Title: MOTORCYCLES
Author: Robert Croucher
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 61 (1976)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: Butler and Tanner Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 20
Series No.: N 20
Title: SHIPS
Author: Frank Dodman
Illustrations: line drawings and unacknowledged photographs by author
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 15 (1952)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 21
Series No.: N 21
Title: POND LIFE
Author: John Clegg
Date Published: 1986
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 24 (1956)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.99

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 22
Series No.: N 22
Title: STAMP COLLECTING
Author: Anthony New
Date Published: 1989
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 42 (Postage Stamps, 1967)
Pages: 178pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.99

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 23
Series No.: N 23
Title: CASTLES
Author: Brian K. Davison
Line drawings: by Jasper Dimond
Date Published: 1988
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 78 (1979)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 24
Series No.: N 24
Title: PETS
Author: Tina Hearne
Line drawings: by Christine Bousefield
Date Published: 1980
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 72 (1978)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.99

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 25
Series No.: N 25
THIS NUMBER (N 25) WAS NOT USED.

Was issued as Trucks in the first N series 1983-6
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 40 (Commercial Vehicles, 1967)

Information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 26
Series No.: N 26
Title: BIRDS
Author: Rob Hume
Date Published: 1987 50th Anniversary Edition
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 1 (British Birds 1937, Birds, 1954)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 27
Series No.: N 27
Title: CATS
Author: Grace Pond
Photographs: by Marc Henrie
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 30 (1959)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 28
Series No.: N 28
Title: INSECTS OF THE BRITISH ISLES
Author: E. F. Linssen
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 17 (Common British Insects and Spiders, 1953; Common Insects and Spiders, 1954; Insects of the British Isles, 1978)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 29
Series No.: N 29
Title: TREES
Author: Herbert Edlin
Date Published: 1987
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 4 (Trees and Shrubs of the British Isles, 1938; Trees and Shrubs, 1954; Trees, 1960)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.50

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 30
Series No.: N 30
Title: CANALS
Author: John Gagg
Photographs: by the author
Drawings: by Robert Wilson
Date Published: 1988
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 95 (1982)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.95

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss
N 31
Series No.: N 31
Title: BUTTERFLIES
Author: Paul Morrison
Colour illustrations: colour plates of adult butterflies by A. D. A. Russwurm; colour plates of early stages by R. B. Davies, copied from the originals by F. W. Frohawk
Date Published: 1989
Original Warne Observer's Book number: 3 (British Butterflies, 1938; Butterflies, 1954)
Pages: 192pp.
Printer: William Clowes Ltd
Price: £3.99

Image and information courtesy of Paul Lickiss




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This page was last modified on 22 January 2023
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