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The Observer's Book of Aircraft No. 11

This is one of the most successful of the Observer's Books and probably the title with the most editions for a collector. The book started life entitled 'The Observer Book of Airplanes' written by Joseph Lawrence and was issued with this title in 1942, 1943 & 1945. Interestingly this book was not issued as an Observers Series number until 1949. The 1949 edition saw a number of changes, the most notable being the change in the title from Airplanes to Aircraft. It was allocated the number 11 in the Observer's Series and the authors became William Green and Gerald Pollinger.

From 1955 until 1992 annual editions were published, each having their own cover design. As with the other Observer books, this title went through many forms. The editions between 1979 & 1982 were issued in pictorial boards, not with the usual dust jacket. Between 1983 & 1992 the book was published as a paperback in the New Observer's Series, with a new number N1. The final edition was the only one not to be published by Frederick Warne, being issued by Bloomsbury, returning to a hardback pictorial board format with yet another title change to "The Observer's Book of Airliners."

These little books proved very popular with Aircraft spotters who were aided by some excellent silhouettes by Dennis Punnett to help identification. With over 100,000 copies a year being sold they are not among the scarcest books, but copies from the early 1950s with their original dustwrappers can be hard to find in acceptable condition.

Above: left, the paperback edition & right, interior pages from the 1967 edition.

The final twist for a collector is that between 1960 and 1971 each annual edition had two versions of the dust jacket, one with the year on the spine and one without. Therefore many collectors try to go for uniform wrapper types during this period so that they look correct on the shelf, and for the completist - well, they require a set of each!

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