Pears' Cyclopaedia to cease publication after 125 years

Pears' Cyclopaedia to cease publication after 125 years

The next edition of the 125-year-old Pears' Cyclopaedia will be the last, publisher Penguin Random House has confirmed.

The decision follows the retirement of its series editor, Dr Chris Cook, and heavily declining sales of the British almanac.

The volume has offered a mix of "solid facts and fascinating gems" spanning a breadth of subjects, from global events to Norse mythology, modern cinema to medical matters and even the latest tax advice, since 1897. It was used in schools and colleges, offices and libraries, and by students and researchers, newspapers, radio and TV stations.

Cook has edited the almanac since 1977 and will be standing down following the publication of this year's ultimate volume for 2017-18. For 40 years he was involved in the annual task of overseeing a varied team of expert contributors, making use of what PRH described as his love of reference books, "compulsive" reading of every kind of newspaper and "formidable" academic record, creating historical works that have been translated into a dozen languages.

The book's editors at Penguin Random House explained they were winding down the journal because they could not imagine it continuing under another series editor. Statistics from Nielsen BookScan have also revealed volume sales of the work have sharply declined in recent years: the 2001/02 edition sold 24,229 copies whereas the 2016/17 edition sold only 2,854 copies.

A PRH spokesperson said: "Dr Chris Cook has been editing Pears’ Cyclopaedia for 40 years and we are incredibly grateful to him for the tireless work that has gone into making it a book of extraordinary longevity, durability and value.

"In the age of the internet, Pears' has continued to be a uniquely British almanac, reaching readers across generations. It is with great sadness that we stop publishing it as Dr Cook retires but we celebrate his dedication and generosity over the past four decades."

Reflecting on his retirement and what he would miss about Pears', Dr Cook said: "I’ve had a very large amount of mail over time, from all over the world – I am grateful to those who have been contributors through letters informing me of things they think should be in the next edition of Pears."

He added: "I’ll find it difficult to not reach for a notepad and pen to write things down to include in the next edition, every time I read a newspaper."

The ultimate volume, dubbed "the Swiss army knife of reference books" by PRH, publishes with Penguin on Thursday (31st August).