Guinness Book of World Records

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The Guinness Book of World Records (known since 2000 as "Guinness World Records") is an annually published reference book which contains a collection of internationally recognized feats of human achievement, as well as the extremes found in the natural world.

The first edition appeared in August 1954, when twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter were commissioned to compile a book of facts that could be used to settle arguments in bars across the United Kingdom. 1,000 copies were initially printed and distributed free of charge.[1]

The idea came about after Sir Hugh Beaver, the then managing director of the Guinness Brewery became involved in an argument, whilst on a shooting holiday in 1951. When no reference book could tell him what the fastest game bird in Europe was, he realized that there must be many such questions raised in bars and clubs across the country and that a handy reference book, listing various records would come in handy. Although he had initially planned it as a marketing tool to be distributed free of charge, the 1955 edition topped the best-seller lists. The McWhirter twins continued to edit and publish the annual, changing the publication date to coincide with the Christmas holidays, until Ross was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on 27 November 1975.[2] Norris continued to run the publication alone, until his retirement in 1985, although he continued to serve as a consultant, until he was ousted from this in 1995, by the new owners.

Over time, there have been numerous related publications, normally focusing on a single sport (e.g. the "Guinness Book of Cricket Records"), or aspect of human life, such as Film and Television. In addition, there have been several television spin-offs, of which the first and most famous was "Record Breakers", hosted by Roy Castle and co-hosted by the McWhirter twins (Norris continued their segment alone, after his brother's murder.)

Ironically, of all the records contained within its pages, the "Guinness World of World Records" appears as the world's most sold copyrighted book.[3]

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