The Birth and History of the Guinness Book of World Records

By Marion Wijnberg

The only book in the world that has been held in high esteem and has gained world- wide achievement recognition for recording record breaking over the years, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015. The first edition that was set in print and published for the world to see was in 1955.

It all started in the early 1950s at a shooting party held by Sir Hugh Beaver (1890-1967) in County Wexford. Sir Beaver was the Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery. A somewhat heated discussion started about game birds and which of those was the fastest in Europe. Since no one knew the answer and it couldn’t be found in any reference book of birds, the topic was dropped.

Sir Hugh Beaver (1890 - 1967) (Photo by Edward Miller/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It wasn’t until 1954, when Sir Beaver thought back to the argument he and his friends had at the shooting party as an interesting way of settling pub arguments and promoting his Guinness brewery at the same time. He asked twins Norris (1925-2004) and Ross McWhirter (1925-1975) to put together a book of facts and figures. Using an old gymnasium that had been converted into rooms, Sir Beaver opened offices on the top floor of Ludgate House, 107 Fleet Street and incorporated Guinness Superlatives on November 30th. Ross and Norris both were sports journalists in 1950. In 1951, they published Get to Your Marks. Ross McWhirter and his twin brother, Norris were the co-founders of the Guinness Book of Records. 

Much research began along with the beginning writings of the first book, which according to all accounts took them working 90-hour weeks for just over three months. Being so focused and driven to finish the first book, they worked right through any type of holiday that came along. All the while, unbeknownst to the editors, the McWhirter twins, this would be the birth of a book that would one day dominate all books as an all-time best seller and one regarded as a trusted and recognizable brand globally.

October 1955 marks the year the first edition of The Guinness Book of Records was published. It contained 198 pages and 50,000 copies were printed. It only took two months for the book to become a bestseller in England. A copy of the was offered to each member of the brewery at half the book’s retail price.

The book had 12 separate chapters. Each section of the book had a different title. They were; The Universe, The Natural World, The Animal Kingdom, The Human Being, The Human World, The Scientific World, The World’s Structures, The Mechanical World, The Business World, Accidents and Disaster, Human Achievements and Sport.

Some world record holders are those like the world’s tallest or shortest person, but the book is also filled with people actually attempting to break one record or another to simply get famous enough to make the cut for the book.

A man by the name of Ashrita Furman actually born Keith Furman in 1954 who started breaking records since 1979, is listed as breaking the most world records setting over 600 official Guinness Records and continues to hold more than 191 records, including no other than the record for the most Guinness World Records in 2017, including holding the world record for splitting apples with a samurai sword among others.

Another interesting record breaking account is of a man who hold the world record for the doing the most jumping jacks. On May 17, 2008, it only took Matthew Graul one minute to set the record at 61 jumping jacks, however, five years later on September 18, 2013, a new record was set by Raymond Butler who did 77 jumping jacks.

Finally, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, a romantic new world record for the longest kiss was set by a husband and wife team, Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat who locked lips for 46 hours, 24 minutes and 9 seconds in 2011 beating the previous Guinness world record of 32 hours, 7 minutes and 14 seconds which was set by Nikola Matovic and Kristina Reinhart in Germany in February 2009.

Houston woman whose fingernails are more than 20 inches long.

Other interesting Guinness Book of Records facts:

There is a database of 40,000 records applications with 6,000 records approved annually.

Over 134 million books have been sold globally in 100 countries, and 20 languages.

There’s also a library which contains around 825 hours of television footage with over 750 million viewers annually.

As for social media, it has over 8.8 million Facebook fans, over 1 million followers on Google+ and their Twitter reaches more than 40 million people every year.

Their YouTube channel has more than 286 million views with 700k subscribers and the app has 540 thousand annual downloads.

What Guinness Book of World Records will you try to break this year?

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Marion Wijnberg


Marion lives in Ohio and has two grown children and one grandson. As well as loving the time she gets to spend with them, she also enjoys rescuing animals. Marion currently has 2 cats and a dog. She also loves to travel, read, play tennis and go horseback riding."