7 May 2015

Collins Primary Geography wins Geographical Association Award

At the recent Geographical Association Publishers’ Awards 2015 presentations held at the Manchester Conference Centre, Collins Primary Geography was the winner of a Highly Commended Award.

Collins Primary Geography Series


Citation: This set of resources lays out an almost complete geography course for primary years. The judges felt that it is well produced and likely to be appealing to non-specialists with a limited understanding of sound pedagogy in primary geography. The authors set out to present a range of stimulating ideas that have been well thought-out. One judge in particular noted that it is a really good example of how geography can be exciting and up to date without being too difficult to implement. It shows how schemes of work can be changed to reflect the face of teaching today and is an excellent resource that could have real impact.”
Collins Primary Atlases & Geography
Collins Learning
GA Awards 2015

6 May 2015

New Waterways Guide 5 and The Meccano Bridge

Securing the funds for any form of new canal construction or restoration isn’t easy at the best of times: it’s especially difficult set against the backdrop of the biggest recession within living memory.  So it was something of a neat move to re-package the need for the renewal of a public footbridge, in the form of a piece of functional sculpture and investigate funding in this area, rather than banging the collective head against the empty doors of more conventional coffers.

The Meccano Bridge came about as a result of the need for a footbridge to replace the old horse bridge at Nob End, Little Lever, the construction of which allowed The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society (MB&BCS – www.mbbcs.org.uk) to re-route the footpath.

The Bridge atop the derelict Prestolee Staircase Locks

The original brief – for artist Liam Curtin – was to make a piece of art for the community.  Discussions with local people, the Council, and the Canal Society led to this artwork ultimately being based on the canal, taking the form of a fully functioning bridge.

There were many ideas, but the final proposal was for the bridge to be made from giant Meccano – scaled up ten times. And, to this end an oversize Meccano set was constructed by a local fabricator. Each part (including the nuts and bolts) was scaled up by a factor of ten: ten times longer, ten times wider, ten times thicker and – simply because it’s the way things go – a thousand times heavier! Each part was faithfully rendered at the new scale.

Local volunteers were invited for training, to help in the assembly of the super-sized pieces, which are made from galvanised mild steel, and then painted. The finished bridge simply resting on the refurbished abutments.  Creating a design that can be assembled by local people was a major part of this project, as it was felt that engagement with the community would help to endear the bridge to the resident population.

Picnic site beside the Meccano Bridge

“Building a bridge from giant Meccano is the fulfilment of a childhood dream. I spent my entire childhood building mechanical devices from Meccano and, now, here we have the largest Meccano set in the world!” says Liam.  “It wasn’t until I actually saw the finished pieces arriving from the factory that I realise we had created something quite wonderful. As members of the Canal Society unpacked the lorry, they appeared like Lilliputian figures in a magical toy world.”

Indeed, in the new edition of the Nicholson Waterways Guide 5 North West & the Pennines (just published this March), the signature image, sitting atop the newly added coverage of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, is a depiction of Liam’s latest creation.  An image that is already well on the way to supplanting the iconic steam crane, usually associated with this waterway, and currently forming the Canal Society’s logo.
Nicholson Waterways Guide 5 North West & the Pennines

Now you don’t need to be too much of a canal anorak to guess the precise location of this navigation nor, for that matter, that Bolton and Bury are both termini. But, that was not originally to be the case. When the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was under construction, there was a plan afoot to build a 4½-mile extension, west from Bolton, to join the aforesaid waterway at Red Moss, just to the north of Wigan.

On its ponderous, winding way to Liverpool, that semi-eponymous canal passes through Maghull, which is where the millionaire businessman and politician, Frank Hornby, had his mansion. He’d made his money, in the early part of the 20th C, by designing toys: his successes included Horby Dublo model railways, Dinky toys and – yes, you’ve guessed it – his most profitable line, Meccano!

Text and pictures by Jonathan Mosse, Collins Nicholson Waterways Guides researcher and author.

Two new editions of the Waterways Guides were published on 12 March 2015:

See also:
Researching and writing the Collins Nicholson Waterways Guides

21 Apr 2015

New Collins 2015 Catalogue

Welcome to the new, sunny orange, spring 2015 catalogue, which showcases our excellent Collins products across reference, dictionaries, language learning, games and young readers.

New spring 2015 Collins Catalogue

The big news is that we have some beautiful and authoritative new reference titles this autumn – Abandoned Places, Mapping the Second World War and The Times Great Lives to name a few – which give us good reason to be excited about the coming year. And in the rest of our range, we have titles ranging from railways to astronomy, and from bilingual dictionaries to children’s dictionaries and thesauruses – all market-leading extensions of the already powerful Collins brand. As ever, you can trust Collins products to be packed with inspiration and expertise. We aim to place the user at the centre of a world of possibility and give them exactly what they need to explore it.

In this new catalogue we have sought to highlight great titles from across the Collins publishing range, including lots of new Christmas opportunities from Grand Prix Circuits to The Times History of Britain’s Railways. For children, we’re launching the delightfully engaging Collins Big Cat Reading Lions series, which supports reading development at home with books for each stage of primary education.

General Reference
World Atlases
Road Atlases
Language Learning
Scrabble™, Crosswords, Puzzles & Games,
Su Doku and Quizzes
Children’s Reference,
Dictionaries and Language Learning
Collins Big Cat Reading Lions

Download the Collins 2015 Catalogue (8.8 MB PDF)

Keep up-to-date with the world of reference through our Twitter and Facebook pages, which include range developments, commentary, and book giveaways.

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25 Mar 2015

New Waterways Guide 5, Sankey Canal & Search for a Mersey Flat

The Sankey Canal

Sankey Signage
Originally an entirely boater-centric publication, the series of nine Nicholson Guides has, over the years, broadened its scope to embrace all waterway users – especially walkers and cyclists. So now, if it’s possible to navigate from end to end by boot, bike – or indeed, boat – then a navigation is ripe for inclusion.

On that basis one could hardly ignore the Sankey Canal (sometimes known as the St Helens Canal), which actually received Parliamentary assent several years ahead of the Bridgewater Canal, which somewhat erroneously it would appear, generally carries the accolade of first canal of the Industrial Revolution.

Sadly, this 15½-mile waterway has, since carrying its final cargo of raw sugar in 1959, slipped quietly into oblivion as far as boat traffic is concerned, though it remains firmly in the sights of The Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS – www.sankeycanal.co.uk) as a subject for full revival. Its relatively short length passes through the boundaries of no less than three local authorities, each holding differing views as to its financial priority in the restoration stakes.

However, what can be in no doubt (and was unanimously agreed upon within the hallowed corridors of Collins in Glasgow) is its place in the new edition of Nicholsons Waterways Guide 5 North West & the Pennines just published this March. In preparation I walked it end to end; talked at length with its many protagonists and baulked when faced with the additional commission of finding the subject for its ‘signature image’.

Signature Image?
You see, every waterway in the series is heralded by an iconic image – set atop its introductory page – one that is widely agreed as being exclusively representative of that navigation. Somewhat cropped, the same image is then repeated in the margin of each spread throughout its coverage. When taxed upon the matter SCARS, without a moment’s hesitation, declared that the Mersey Flat type barge should be that chosen image – and, indeed, it appears on much of the literature and signage relating to this canal.

Typical Flat Territory - the Mersey at Fiddler's Ferry

Throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, this coasting vessel was the workhorse of the waterways of the north west: the motor lorry of its day before the motorway. Literally thousands were built, plying between Anglesey in the south and the Solway Firth in the North, where the ubiquitous Puffer would have taken up the baton.

Search for the last complete Mersey Flat
Almost unbelievably, there are just two examples of this waterway workhorse left in existence worldwide …… and one (the Mossdale) is currently in bits at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum, having recently secured a grant for complete restoration. As to the other, well that was to become my quest, with only a somewhat vague Google entry to set me on my way!  

That entry was from the National Historic Ships UK register and purported to have been updated on 5th October 2012 and, just 20 months down the line, I reckoned I was onto a winner. Just how wrong can one be …… as I discovered when I bowled up in Millom, on the Cumbria coast, listed on the register as Oakdale’s location.

Hunt for the Oakdale
Well, I drove out from the town, towards the miles of shimmering sand and disparate trickles of water that make up this vast estuary (immediately west of Barrow-in-Furness) at low tide, to be greeted by nothing as much as a beached rowing boat. I engaged dog walkers in conversation, both here and in neighbouring communities up and down the shoreline. I visited numerous pubs, where I attempted to extract some modicum of sense from their regular afternoon clientele. Librarians were interrogated, as were members of the local constabulary, boat clubs and marinas. All to no avail.

Returning to the vast expanse of sand dunes at Millom, I struck up one final conversation with a reprobate dog walker …… and struck gold.  Whilst he, personally, couldn’t help, Michael in the big house just up the road – who owned the ramshackle quay that we were standing on – was bound to know, so he would take me up there, here and now, and make the introductions.

Luckily we were just in time to apprehend Michael’s Audi as he set out for a family jaunt and, yes, he knew all about the Oakdale who had moved across the estuary to Askam in Furness some nine years ago! Well, ‘across the estuary’ was maybe a mile and a half by sea but it was a good eight miles by those tortuous roads, the sun was setting, and I needed pictures.

To cut a long story short, I made it with enough light to spare, breathing a huge sigh of relief as I located the vessel, beached on grassy dunes, and snapped away to my heart’s content, at perfectly acceptable camera settings.

Next time the subject of an iconic image crops up, to illustrate the masthead of a new waterway entry, I may need to think long and hard about any suggestions that are made …… or set aside at least a day (and quite a few litres of diesel) to have any realistic chance of fulfilling the commission!

Text and pictures by Jonathan Mosse, Collins Nicholson Waterways Guides researcher and author.
Sankey Canal section in the new Waterways Guide 5
Two new editions of the Waterways Guides were published on 12 March 2015:

See also:

4 Mar 2015

Win a telescope and other astronomy goodies!

In celebration of the late great Sir Patrick Moore's birthday today, and looking forward to the solar eclipse on 20th March, we're offering you the chance to win a Celestron telescope, tickets to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, AND a selection of signed astrophotography books.

Enter here for your chance to win!

You can also get 50% off astronomy books at harpercollins.co.uk from now until 31st March 2015.

See the selection here.

25 Feb 2015

The BCS John C. Bartholomew Award for Thematic Mapping 2015

Collins Bartholomew and the Bartholomew family sponsor the prestigious John C. Bartholomew Award in memory of the famous Edinburgh cartographer. A £500 prize is awarded to the winner.


Traditionally this award has been given for originality and excellence in the field of small scale thematic cartography. This year, however, we have opened up the award to thematic cartography at any scale, and delivered via any medium.

This widening in scope of the award recognises that more detailed thematic data is available than ever before, that more easy to use tools exist to create thematic maps from this data than ever before, and that more people are using these data and tools to communicate their message via thematic cartography than ever before.
We welcome traditional style thematic cartography as well as less conventional entries. The judges will place particular emphasis on innovative design and effective communication of the theme or topic, alongside the traditional standards of accuracy, legibility and good cartographic design. Thematic maps are considered to be special purpose, non-topographic and non-general reference maps, intended to communicate the spatial elements and characteristics of a particular topic or theme.
This award is a great opportunity to show off your work. All entries will be displayed at the joint annual symposium of The British Cartographic Society (BCS) and Society of Cartographers in September. The award will be presented at the prize giving ceremony, which follows the annual gala dinner. The winner of the John C. Bartholomew award is automatically entered for the overall British Cartographic Society Award and will compete against the other category winners for the prestigious BCS Award and trophy.
So, if you have created some thematic mapping of which you are particularly proud, please consider entering it for this award. Or, if you are impressed by a thematic map created by someone else, why not encourage them to enter the award?
The rules for the award are available here: http://www.cartography.org.uk/downloads/2015_JCBart_Award.doc
You can submit your entry form on-line here:
The closing date for all the British Cartographic Society awards this year is the 30th April.
Jim Irvine, Head of Digital Resources, Collins Bartholomew

27 Jan 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day - Collection of the Center of Documentation and Investigation of the Ashkenazi community in Mexico

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remember those who suffered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

The following is taken from UNESCO Memory of the World, available here.

What is it?
A collection of books, manuscripts and other historical items in different languages from the Ashkenazi Jewish Community of Mexico.

Why was it inscribed?
It is a unique heritage of Ashkenazi culture in Mexico and a testament to the extraordinary historic saga that brought it from Europe. It is the memory of a cultural minority that was persecuted in Europe but found survival in the Americas.

Where is it?
Comunidad Ashkenazí de México, Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico City, Mexico

Illustration from Fonen und Blunt (‘Flags and Blood’) by Jacobo Glantz, 1936.

The Center of Documentation and Investigation of the Ashkenazi Community of Mexico preserves and disseminates the Ashkenazi culture, which nearly disappeared during the Nazi era in Germany between 1933 and 1945. It also safeguards the historic memory of the Jewish minority in Mexico that arrived from Central and Eastern Europe.

The collection consists of 16,000 volumes, mostly in Yiddish and Hebrew, but also in Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Russian and other languages relating to Ashkenazi culture.

From the end of the 19th century the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe decided to emigrate towards America to find better living conditions, resulting in large groups of Jews cutting their ties to the lands in which they had developed a way of life, a language (Yiddish) and a manner of being: the Ashkenazi.

In the first two decades of the last century, many Jews coming from countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and France settled in Mexico. To retain their identity and continuity for later generations, they founded the Nidjei Israel (1922), a community very similar in its functions to what they had left behind in Europe.

Their former life was ended forever by the pogroms unleashed at the dawn of the 20th century, by the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, and by the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.
When the religious and cultural centres finally disappeared during the Holocaust, the responsibility
for preserving the Ashkenazi culture fell on the shoulders of Latin American communities.

In 1945, thousands of books that had been confiscated by the Nazis were rescued by the Allies near Offenbach in Germany. Returning them to their original libraries was impossible, so it was decided to contact the established Jewish communities in Latin America. The Ashkenazi community in Mexico received 1000 of those books, which became the starting point for a new collection of Ashkenazi and wider Jewish culture in Mexico.

The CDICA now has more than 16,000 volumes dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries, the greater part of them written in Yiddish and Hebrew, and a few in other languages including Polish, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Russian. It also has all the manuscripts from the Ashkenazi institutions in Mexico. The books focus mainly on the humanities, Jewish studies and cultural history.

The collection is unique for two main reasons: the first, because it is the only one of its kind in Mexico and the second, because of the extraordinary historic saga that brought it from Europe.

26 Jan 2015

Australia Day - The Endeavour journal of James Cook

Today being Australia day, discover James Cook's journal from HMS Endeavour, which is featured in UNESCO Memory of the World, available here.

What is it?
The journal of Lieutenant James Cook describing his first exploration in the Pacific on HMS Endeavour in 1768–71.

Why was it inscribed?
James Cook is among the great navigators and explorers of the world and the journal is one of the few substantial manuscripts in his own hand. Cook circumnavigated New Zealand, charted the east coast of Australia and explored Tahiti and the Society Islands in the South Pacific. His discoveries and his journal were believed to have opened the way for British colonization of Australia in the decades that followed.

Where is it?
National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia

A replica of the HMS Endeavour, launched in 1994, and Cook's journal [inset]

James Cook, then a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, was commander of a joint Royal Navy and Royal Society expedition that set out from England to explore the South Pacific in 1768. Its aims were two-fold: to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun in 1769 – observations which helped determine other distances in the solar system – and to find the Terra Australis Incognita, the unknown southern land, already assumed by Europeans to exist. Cook had already proved himself skilful in mapping and cartography during service in North America in the 1850s and ’60s. His voyage in the southern hemisphere, from August 1768 to July 1771, lasted almost three years.

The expedition sailed southwest across the Atlantic, stopping at Rio de Janeiro before rounding Cape Horn to reach Tahiti in April 1769. There the crew observed the transit of Venus before sailing west to search for the southern continent. With the help of a Tahitian mariner, Cook reached New Zealand in October 1769, mapping it with few errors.

From there he set course west on 31 March 1770 in search of the continent and with little knowledge of what lay ahead of him. In fact, the ship’s crew sighted the southeastern coast of Australia on what is now recognized, allowing for time differences, to be 20 April 1770. From what the explorers named Point Hicks, the Endeavour sailed north up the east coast of Australia before finally dropping anchor on 29 April at a place Cook later called Botany Bay after the botanical specimens the ship’s scientists collected there. The crew made their first contact with local people there.

The Endeavour was badly damaged on the Great Barrier Reef as she sailed north, requiring repairs lasting more than six weeks. During the enforced stopover they encountered more aboriginal people and the scientists collected more botanical specimens. Once through the Torres Strait to the north, Cook landed on Possession Island and claimed for the British Crown the coastline he had just navigated. The expedition lost several members to tropical and other diseases in the East Indies before finally sailing for England via the Cape of Good Hope.

Cook’s journal covers the entire voyage, although one page is missing. While the journals of several other members of the Endeavour party have survived, Cook’s is considered preeminent as it records the experiences and reflections of the expedition leader, a man who was one of the world’s great explorers in his own right. Furthermore this journal is the founding document of the National Library of Australia.

Cook’s journal deals directly or indirectly with many aspects of his voyage: life on board a Royal Navy vessel in the 18th century; the relations between Cook, his officers, the crew, the scientists and the artists on the expedition; the exploration of the South Pacific; experiments with navigational instruments; the precise charting of immense coastlines; astronomical observations; and observations
of the topography, flora, fauna and possible resources of the countries explored.

In addition to assessments of the land and sea, the journal is also one of the earliest written records of the indigenous peoples of Polynesia, New Zealand and eastern Australia and records relations with them and observations of their physiognomies, economies, social systems, customs and religions.

25 Jan 2015

Bonie Burns Night!

The following is taken from Scotland the Best 100 Places, by Peter Irvine, available here.

Photograph: Paul Tomkins (click image to enlarge)

Few woodland walks are as properly immortalized as Birks O’ Aberfeldy, in Perthshire. In 1787 Robert Burns walked up the Moness Burn, stopped for a rest on a rocky shelf and wrote the poem eponymic with the place ever since. Of course, the romantic, pastoral lyric captures it perfectly:

The Birks of Aberfeldy, Robert Burns

Chorus.—Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy!

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the crystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
  In the birks of Aberfeldy.
    Bonie lassie, &c.

While o’er their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blythely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing,
  In the birks of Aberfeldy.
    Bonie lassie, &c.

The braes ascend like lofty wa’s,
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa’s,
O’erhung wi’ fragrant spreading shaws—
  The birks of Aberfeldy.
  Bonie lassie, &c.

The hoary cliffs are crown’d wi’ flowers,
White o’er the linns the burnie pours,
And rising, weets wi’ misty showers
  The birks of Aberfeldy.
    Bonie lassie, &c.

Let Fortune’s gifts at randoe flee,
They ne’er shall draw a wish frae me;
Supremely blest wi’ love and thee,
  In the birks of Aberfeldy.
    Bonie lassie, &c.

The walk here has been popular ever since, but it remains one of Scotland’s most iconic: the light filtered through beech leaves and further up through birch (the ‘birks’), the cascading water, the views down the glen and of the Upper Moness Falls at the top. If you’ve got or yearn for light some days, find them here.

Scotland the Best 100 Places, by Peter Irvine, is available here.

19 Jan 2015

The 100th Anniversary of the First Zeppelin Attack on London

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first Zeppelin attack on the UK, so we're taking a look at the part Zeppelins played during the early days of the First World War, both in attack and defence.

The following is taken from Mapping the First World War, by Peter Chasseaud, available here.

(Click image to enlarge) ABOVE: German Naval Airship L13. She took part in a raid on London and the Home Counties on the night of 13/14 October 1915. Her commander dropped most of his bombs, mainly incendiaries, in the Woolwich area, presumably intended for the Royal Arsenal.


Zeppelins and other airships, while proving increasingly vulnerable to attack from the ground and the air, performed valuable reconnaissance work on both the Eastern and Western Fronts in the early years of the war. The first Zeppelin raid on Britain took place on the evening of 19 January 1915, when two airships, L3 and L4, bombed Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in Norfolk, killing nine people.

Civilian morale suffered because of shock, a feeling of helplessness and also a heightened fear of invasion. More raids followed on coastal towns, and also on London, during 1915 and 1916. In all there were fifty-two Zeppelin raids on Britain during the war, killing over 500 people. Little significant damage was done, and the main effect was the diversion of scarce military resources to air defence.

Air Defence

The air defence of Britain was at first in the hands of the Navy. The London Air Defence Area (LADA) was formed in September 1915, initially under Admiral Sir Percy Scott, a naval gunnery expert, to defend London from the increasing threat from airships. Existing naval and land-service guns were adapted for high-angle fire.

The LADA was taken over by the RFC in February 1916. Deploying searchlights and anti-aircraft guns, it was at first remarkably ineffective, and RFC squadrons had to be brought back from France to provide London with some protection. Some fourteen airfields around London and the Home Counties were used for squadrons defending London. Existing aeroplanes were adapted as night-fighters.

(Click image to enlarge) ABOVE: Air Raid, 6 December 1917, showing the routes of German bombing planes over London and the Thames Estuary. The paths of sixteen aeroplanes, in four detachments, are shown. An official map, overprinted on an Ordnance Survey base map, not for public consumption.

In early September 1916, William Leefe Robinson, flying a BE2c two-seater converted into a single-seater night-fighter, was the first British pilot to shoot down a German airship over Britain. His machine gun fire caused the airship to burst into flames, and it crashed in a field in Hertfordshire, killing Commander Schramm and his fifteen-man crew of Schütte-Lanz SL11, one of sixteen airships on a mass raid on England.

Civilian morale, which had been suffering because of the apparent immunity of the raiders, received a great boost, the effect being helped by the large number of witnesses and the triumphant celebrations. It was a propaganda victory as well as a successful demonstration of the capabilities of night-fighters. Robinson was awarded the Victoria Cross.

(Click image to enlarge) ABOVE: The Daily Mail Map of Zeppelin and Aeroplane Bombs on London, 31 January 1919. The scale of original is approximately ½ inch to 1 mile.

Among the anti-aircraft defence techniques tried was a balloon apron, which involved a chain of tethered barrage balloons from which were suspended a curtain of cables. The Germans had tested a kite or balloon barrage in the winter of 1914–5, and in 1917, in response to Allied air raids, used balloon barrages to protect important industrial targets. The Italians used a similar system to protect Venice and, in September 1917, General Ashmore (who had visited Venice) outlined his London balloon barrage plan. German twin-engine Gotha bomber planes had begun to raid London.

Two balloon aprons were soon deployed to the east of London. In October 1917, the Commander-in-Chief Home Forces initiated a scheme for five balloon squadrons, and a further cordon of twenty balloon aprons in an arc from northeast to southeast London. By April 1918 seven were in operation and the eighth was almost ready. The morale effect was considerable, as the balloons reassured civilians.

(Click image to enlarge) ABOVE: Balloon apron for the defence of London, 1917–18. In 1917, copying German and Italian ideas, the British deployed two balloon aprons east of London. By April 1918 seven more were in operation and the eighth was almost ready.

Mapping the First World War, by Peter Chasseaud, is available here.