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An extraordinary tale of magazines, flipcharts and finally, a book
The special edition of the Illustrated London News celebrating the life and times of the Queen Mother has had one of the longest gestation periods in the history of magazine publishing. The plans for it were originally prepared in the 1970s, when the Queen Mother was approaching her 80th birthday and it would have been revolutionary to be ready to print in colour overnight. The formula has remained unchanged, although over the years it has expanded in size to 128-pages, and was ready to be published in magazine or book format.
However the deal to publish this as a hard-backed book represents one of the fastest turnarounds in the history of book publishing. Publishers at the Illustrated London News Group (part of the Sea Containers group of companies) and Pan Macmillan came to an agreement to publish a hard-backed book on Thursday April 4. Printing commences on Monday 7 April, and the book, with full coverage of the funeral, is due to appear under the Sidgwick and Jackson imprint on April 15.
Illustrated London News Group's managing director Lisa Barnard said this was the most extraordinary publishing project she had ever come across. "I inherited this Queen Mother project, which was supposed to be brilliantly conceived, when I joined the company in late 2000. When I looked into it more closely, all was not as I had hoped. Paper had been purchased with great foresight more than 20 years ago, and was lying in a yellowing, brittle state in the North of England in a printers warehouse. Not only was it unusable and a fire hazard, but it turned out the cost had never been accounted for, nor the storage costs, nor the editorial costs which had built up over a quarter of a century. We sold the paper on, which has now been turned into flipcharts. I am delighted therefore that we have joined forces with Pan Macmillan to make this happen and that the book, which is incredibly special, will finally see the light of day."
Sidgwick and Jackson's publisher Gordon Wise commented: "Sidgwick & Jackson are honoured to be involved in bringing such a prestigious publication into fruition in book form. The depth and breadth of the Illustrated London News' research marks this particular project out from any other tribute on the market. As one of Britain's leading magazines of social and historical record and with very privileged access to the ceremonial activities, the coverage the magazine's editorial team will be able to include of the events of this fortnight will be second to none, and in its integrity will complement the unique formula of the book's historical record.
Unlike many Queen Mother special editions, which contain much rehashed material from the 100th birthday celebrations, The Illustrated London News' book is completely original and is published in a unique format. It consists of an intimate biography of the Queen Mother set against a pictorial record of the tumultuous events that took place during the century, with which her life was so intertwined. The biographical chapters are illustrated with many charming photographs and portraits, and the book draws on much material exclusive to the Illustrated London News' rich archive.
Interspersed between the chapters is a record of the Queen Mother's century, which included such events as the first flight of a Zeppelin and the first transatlantic wireless message, the mass production of the motor car, two world wars, the splitting of the atom, men walking on the moon, the development of computer technology, and the advent of instant world-wide communications. This is presented in diary form with many hundreds of contemporary photography and engravings.
This special issue is edited by James Bishop, who retired from the Illustrated London News in 1994 after 24 years as Editor, but who has continued to supervise the updating of the issue. He describes it as a work of intense admiration: "As the years have passed, so has my admiration of the Queen Mother increased - not just because of her indomitable will to live, but also because of the courage she showed in the face of so many of the shocking events of the century through which she lived. The book's unique approach captures the Queen's Mother's life set in the context of these events."
The Illustrated London News
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, The Life that Spanned a Century, 1900-2002 is published on April 15 2002.
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