red guide cover and spine designs

The following information provides a broad outline about the changing designs of covers and spines over the years.  Please also see our separate covers and spines chart which sets out further detail.

It should be noted that the year bands indicated are broad indications only – sometimes the designs described could be found outside these date ranges.

front             back

1861 – 1878 : Forerunner publications

The first guide that we have seen is the 1861 London Pocket Guide, shown at left.  It did not have maps and there are very few advertisements although some appear before and on the back cover. There are some illlustrations, and the size is somewhat smaller (4" x 3" approx), hence the name.

1879 - 1891 : Original varied design

The first guides were published with green paper boards. The design of the covers changed over the years during this period. The covers included a variety of series titles including "Pictorial Guide", "Illustrated Guide" and "Popular History", and sometimes a combination of these. The cover wording usually referred to "Ward & Lock's", but the spine wording usually referred to "London : Ward, Lock & Co."

The L'Ile de Jersey guide, shown right, is interesting in that the text is in French, while the maps and advertisements are in English.

 1891 : First classic red covers

The covers of the first red guides included no pictorial design and listed the individual place names covered.

1891 – 1893 : Copperplate title design with horizontal spine titles

The red covers evolved, still with no pictorial design. The guide title was in copperplate script usually (but not always) inside a black box. The individual place names covered were no longer included, with the exception of the North Wales titles.

The wording on the spine was printed horizontally and the price was in numerical form - "1/-". The spines included the words "Ward & Lock's Pictorial & Historical Guides" and the publisher was listed as "London : Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co." The cover wording was usually "Ward & Lock's Guide Books" with the words "With Maps, Plans & Illustrations" at the foot.

1894 – 1902/3 : Copperplate title design with vertical spine titles

From 1894 onwards, the front cover design continued with the copperplate script inside a black box, but the spine titles started to be printed vertically (along the length of the spine). The words "Shilling Pictorial Guide" were printed (horizontally) at the top of the spine, and the name of the publisher at the foot. The covers used the wording "Illustrated Guide Book" throughout this period. Until 1896, the name of the publisher on the cover and the spine was "Ward, Lock & Bowden Limited" but in 1897 this changed to "Ward Lock & Co's" (with the word "Limited" added to the name printed on the spine). The London editions during this period had the publication year included on the spines.

1902/3 – 1910/11 : “Small Arms” design

These covers were plain with a black dotted border rim, with the guide title in capitals.  Below this, in the centre, was (usually, but not always) a small coat of arms relating to the town or area covered by the particular guide.

The spines included a small 1/- price in a circle at the top, and "Ward Lock & Co" at the foot. The London editions continued to have their publication dates included on the spine until about 1903/04. After this date, the date was also added to the cover.

1910/11 - 1918/19 : “Large Arms in Circle” design with 1/- or 1/6 price in spine box

During this period, the covers displayed a large circle with two vertical bars, inside which was a coat of arms relating to the town or area covered by the particular guide. The North Wales and South Wales editions included a list of place names instead of the coat of arms.

The spines continued to include the price of 1/- NET, now in a square band. The 1917/18 and 1918/19 editions often had this price updated to 1/6 net. The London editions continued to have their publication dates included on their covers and spines until 1915/16.


1918/19 - 1931/32 : “Large Arms in Circle” design without price in spine box

After 1918/19, the price box was removed from the square band. For a year or two, the space was often left blank but from 1919/20 onwards, the square band was filled with either a single dot or four small dots. The London titles again started having their publication dates on the spines from 1924 onwards. 1924 was the year when Ward Lock published a special British Empire Exhibition commemorative edition.

1931/32 – 1940/41 : Large boxed map design

In 1931, the design changed to a large boxed map of the area covered by the particular guide, with the main surrounding towns marked.  The only exception to this appears to be the London guides, where the map is replaced by various famous London landmarks.

The spines during this period now included horizontal black stripes at the top rather than the square band.

The pre-war London guides included a year on the spine. Some of these titles appear to have been published into the mid 1950s, perhaps alongside the newer design below.


1940/41 – approximately 1947/48

No guides were published during this period.

1947/48 approximately – Early 1950s : Large boxed map design

Publication started again in approxiamately 1947/48. The guides published immediately after the War, in the last years of the 1940s, underwent a change and the number of advertisements included was gradually reduced. The original cloth covered version was replaced initially with a cheaper quality, slightly glossy cover (sometimes but not always of a draker red hue than previously), still with the large boxed map design. This change was presumably necessitated by shortages of quality materials during that period or an intense effort to restrain or reduce costs. The post-War London editions included no date on the cover or the spine.

(with & w/o dust wrapper)

paperback version



1970s h/b and p/b

Later editions (early 1950s onwards)

Please see the Later Editions page on this website for details of editions published from the 1950s onwards.

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