The "Guinness Book of World Records," which is now referred to simply as Guinness World Records, began with a single, simple question asked in a pub in County Wexford, Ireland. During a shooting party in said place in 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then Managing Director of the Guinness Brewery, wondered what the answer to this question was: What was Europe's fastest game bird?
Despite a heated argument and a thorough search through Sir Hugh Beaver's personal reference collection, the answer could not be found. He thought there must be several of these types of questions going unanswered the world over. This led him to the idea of a definitive book collecting the questions and answers to all kinds of superlatives of this nature.
With the help of London-based fact-finding twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, the "Guinness Book of World Records" was born. On August 27, 1955, the book was bound and by Christmas of that same year, the book was Britain's number one bestseller.
The twins edited the book together until Ross's death on November 27, 1975. Norris then continued to edit the book by himself until handing over editorship to Alan Russell on March 31, 1986.
This year's edition is the 57th edition to be published. It is still an extremely popular volume. It was released in the United States and Canada on September 13, 2011. It contains 4000 records, half of which are in new categories or are held by new record holders.
More than 65,000,000 copies of the book were sold worldwide by 1990. Video game high scores were published in the "Guinness Book of World Records" from 1985-1987. After this year, video game high scores were discontinued in the book.
Guinness Superlatives Limited changed its name to Guinness Publishing Limited on September 17, 1990. Then it changed its name again to Guinness World Records Limited on July 1, 1999.
Diageo, (the previous owners of the business), sold the Guinness World Records book publishing business to Gullane Entertainment in 2001. Gullane was then itself sold to HIT Entertainment in 2002. In December 2007, Guinness World Records was again up for sale and was bought by the Jim Pattison Group for 60,000,000 pounds in February of 2008.
From a simple question asked in a pub to a widely popular records book, the "Guinness Book of World Records" has an interesting history. Many people wish to break a record in order to gain entry into the book. Most do not succeed in actually making it. The "Guinness Book of World Records" has become a prestigious cultural icon.