17 September 2010

Teach Yourself Books

I have never met a collector of Teach Yourself books. There are collectors for almost all book series, types and genres so they must exist - there are even collectors of Reader's Digest omnibuses, but they don't want to pay very much. The ultra-whimscal proprietor of my local shop in old East Anglia  became a  temporary collector recently and in a few months amassed enough to fill a window (96). They make a wonderful sight, like an art installation gradually diminishing in size as they sell. He tells me they are shifting at a rate of about three or four a day at between £3 and £5 each. For £5 I bought M. Stuart's immortal Teach Yourself House Repairs (English Universities Press, London 1959) the only T.Y. book with a red d/w (they are invariably black and yellow or dark green and yellow.)

My favourite title on sale was Teach Yourself to Fly, possibly used by TM in their 'yogic flying' levitation attempts but also useful for owners of light planes. It would have been good if it was local hero Benjamin Britten's copy. At one point he had a plane parked in a Suffolk field to fly to gigs in Europe, i know this because I cleared the library of his pilot's widow. It did not go on for long because, although  he could be back home at the Red House in time for supper after a busy day in Amsterdam, the insurance was prohibitive.

The Teach Yourself books were published from 1938 until 1973 by the English Universities Press. After that they were published by Hodder mostly in paperback and they are still going, but seem to have lost out to hipper guides like the 'For Dummies' and 'Complete Idiot' series. There is even a parody The Complete Idiot's Guide for Dummies: The Fun and Easy Way to Achieve Total Stupidity and also Sex for Dummies. The latter one is curious because early sex manuals actually used pictures of dummies to demonstrate sexual positions etc., (and then there is Hans Bellmer whose Die Puppe is one of the great art book sleepers.)

The most expensive T.Y. title on the net is Teach Yourself Welsh at £400 but the seller is 'with the fairies' as it can be had in better condition for 37 pence. The most consistently expensive title is by the great needlework expert Mary Thomas Teach Yourself Embroidery, one of the earliest titles. An old respected modern first dealer wants £100 for a 1938 decent copy in a 'very slightly frayed' jacket. Sans jacket the 1938 can be had for £3 and there is even a copy for a fiver in an embroidered jacket, presumably done from the book. I suspect the £100 copy will be there for many years, unless collecting such books become a craze. Outlook? Patchy and uncertain, but as penny shares they are unlikely to tie up much money; go only for smart copies in decent jackets.


Anonymous said...

The 1938 edition of How to Fly is actually a very good book, it is by the Cornish cat lover Nigel Tangye and worth more than £5 in a good cover. Here is a quotation from it that may interest your readers: 'Your First Solo Flight will be made a great deal sooner if you study this book, for you can master the theory before you even come in contact with the 'plane. Straightforward statement and clear diagrams make its instruction easy to grasp. You can save your instructor's time and patience and that is A SERVICE TO YOUR COUNTRY.'

James O'Meara said...


Stumbled on this post while trying to verify a Teach Yourself printing date. I don't know if I count as a 'collector' but I do have a fondness for the older books on languages. Some of them are quite good, most are useless [although the newest Greek and Hebrew ones are good!], but I still like their grammar-heavy approach. As a result I've accumulated a shelf of various titles in various formats, rather than the uniform format of your bookseller.

Also, there was a "angry young man" sort of movie in the 60s that I saw on TV in which the disaffected youth lived in an attic and taught himself about the world with TY books; pre-Google of course. Never been able to remember the title, alas.

Nickname unavailable said...

I have a huge collection of Teach Yourself books that I need to sell - taking up too much space that is needed for other things!

Helpful Genealogy said...

I have a huge collection of Teach Yourself books that I need to sell - taking up too much space that is needed for other things! Contact me if you are interested!

Anonymous said...

Ny favourite title Teach Yourself Alcoholism published 1976

Anonymous said...

I visited a bookfair in Leeds recently - where a Local Book Dealer (Elaine Lonsdale Books) had many of the Teach Yourself Books in the distinctive Yellow/Black D/W and they looked tremendous on the shelf. I've started collecting!! (A couple of the Green sporting Titles as well)

pietooth said...

I started collecting them about 20 years ago, then I moved to USA where they don't really exist. I'm jumping on this post a bit late but if anyone has any for sale I maybe buy them. My email theisles@hotmail.com

Daimon said...

Hi. Do you have any left?

Helpful Genealogy said...

Yes, they are all available as I haven't had time to put them on eBay etc.

khairy said...