Guinness World Records, the bestselling annual book, has accompanied generations of curious readers through the wonders of the universe and the world around us.
Ever since its first publication in 1955, the book has captured snapshots of the world, crystallizing entire years of world records.
A vital role in this process is played by the cover. It is the first thing that catches the eye of new generations of readers, winking at them from the shelves of a library, or that surprises old ones year after year.
The cover can blend with the editions before – as with the 2021 and 2022 books, for which Rod Hunt has illustrated a detailed and colourful world that jigsaws together – or it can take a leap and change what has come before.
To celebrate the upcoming Guinness World Records 2022, we asked our editor-in-chief Craig Glenday to share his favourite Guinness World Records covers. Join us in this fascinating trip down memory lane.
The 1986 edition saw Norris Dewar McWhirter as editor and had a strong space theme. “Out of this world,” it reads on the cover. It was this nod to space travel, so dear to that decade, that first captured Craig’s attention:
This was my first time picking up a Guinness World Records book - or technically a Guinness Book of Records, as it was known then.
"As a 13-year-old boy obsessed with space travel, it really caught my eye," says Craig, explaining the edition in the context of those years: when future, space and the vastity of the universe seemed just within humanity's grasp.
"This was an exciting time for that - the Space Shuttle was still relatively new so stories about space were always on the news. Once I opened up the book and started reading, I was blown away by the content inside."
However, as Craig recalls, the 1986 edition didn't only feature facts and records about space. It also recorded records like:
- The longest dream (2 hours and 23 minutes of REM sleep recorded for Bill Carskadon on February 15, 1967, in Chicago, Illinois).
- The largest container ship, which was the Shenshu Maru, Japan, with 282,85 (106,500 dwt 928 ft) in length.
- The oldest antelope, a 25 years, 4 months old Addax that died in October 1960 (US).
- The rarest rodent, the San Felipe hutia – also known as little earth hutia. Autochthonous of the islet of Cayo Juan Garcia, in the Canarreos Archipelago southern off Cuba, it hadn't been recorded since 1970.
Not many know that the bright green of the 2006 cover was the direct development of the lens foil that was first experimented with during the 2004 edition. The editorial team loved the shiny effect on the bright blue cover two years prior, and wanted to go back to it and see how else it could be used.
It was a success.
I can't forget my first Guinness World Records book as Editor, so the 2006 edition is particularly special for me.
Not only was that style re-invented for many following editions, but many other publishers started using the same style for their hardbacks.
"An interesting side note is that the technology uses microscopically tiny grooves etched on to film," explains Craig.
The etching is a Fresnel lens like you'd see on a lighthouse light, but just really, really thin. This is why it's so good at catching the light."
"The film is then metallized (covered with vaporized aluminium) and then fixed to paper. Then, we can print on top of it. All very high tech... it uses technology adopted from the Shuttle space missions, apparently!"
2020 marked a departure for Guinness World Records: from the shiny and playful colours of the lens foil to an '80s throwback, with neon and futuristic vibes.
The simplicity of the cover, the strong contrasts and the nod to the '80s capture the spirit of a year that has been looking to the past for inspiration. If you're thinking about The Goonies, you're on the right track: the record-breaking TV show Stranger Things inspired the style of this cover!
(In case you were wondering, Millie Bobby Brown (UK) – 'Eleven' in the famous sci-fi show – is also the current record holder of Youngest UNICEF Goodwill ambassador.)
But that wasn’t the only surprise for 2020: for the first time, the campaign featured a teaser trailer for the cover reveal.
"It also allowed Joseph in our video team to create an awesome teaser for the cover reveal, and then to film a live-action advert (featuring me as a taxi driver!) that I still think is one of the most creative responses to a brief I've seen at Guinness World Records," adds Craig.
Rod Hunt brought to life the amazing world we live in through his Guinness World Records2021 cover. An urban landscape packed with records and plenty of little details to be discovered after the first glance.
The 2021 cover is bubbly, colourful and dynamic: no surprise, then, that it’s one of Craig’s favourite ones.
“I love the work of the illustrator Rod Hunt, who makes these incredibly detailed cities and landscapes, and was keen to apply his style to a Guinness World Records cover," says Craig.
"Rod's illustrations are perfect for Guinness World Records, because they capture the fun and spirit of what we do, and they allow us to celebrate that vast spectrum of record-breaking and all the fascinating characters involved."
The "big leap" of the 2021 didn’t only change the path of the latest Guinness World Records covers, but it also marked a new beginning: the 2022 edition will be a direct continuation of Rod Hunt’s 2021 world... with some tweaks!
If in the 2021 edition the reader can get lost for hours looking for their favourite records and Easter eggs, the 2022 edition is just as full of surprises. Another journey to discover our world – the bad, the good and the ugly – and the wonders that make it up.
“The 2021 edition proved to be popular, so we asked Rod to come back again for the Guinness World Records2022 edition,” says Craig Glenday, explaining the genesis of this illustrated universe.
From breathtaking historical sites to amazing records, up to events that marked the last year, Rod Hunt has illustrated another detailed, colourful picture of our world.
What's even more fun is that his 2021 and 2022 covers jigsaw together. Of course, it now means that Guinness World Records 2022 will be my new favourite cover! (My favourite book is always the one I've just finished!)
Find more about this year’s Guinness World Records edition here, and get involved using the hashtag #GWR2022!