I-Spy (Michelin)

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The I-SPY books are spotters' guides written for British children, and particularly successful in the 1950s and 1960s in their original form and again when relaunched by Michelin in 2009 after a seven-year gap in publishing.

Concept[edit]

The I-SPY books are a series of around forty small volumes that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies each, totalling sales of 25 million worldwide by 2010.[1] Each book in the I-Spy series covers a different subject, such as I-SPY Cars, I-SPY on the Pavement, I-SPY Churches, I-SPY on a Train Journey, and so on. As children spot the objects listed, they record the event in the book and gain points, varying according to how unusual the sight. In the early years of the series, completed books could be sent to Charles Warrell, (known as Big Chief I-SPY) for a feather and order of merit. The children participating in the game were known as The I-SPY Tribe, and by 1953 the I-SPY Tribe had half a million members.[1]

History of the series[edit]

The company was supposedly run by a Red Indian chief called Big Chief I-Spy. The original Big Chief I-Spy was Charles Warrell, a former head master who created I-Spy towards the end of his working life. He retired in 1956, but lived until 1995 when he died at the age of 106.[1] After Warrell's retirement his assistant Arnold Cawthrow became the second Big Chief, and served in this role until 1978. For part of this time he also worked as an antiques dealer in Islington. He died in 1993, and is commemorated by a stone plaque placed on the outside of the Boatmen's Rooms, the house where he spent some of his last years in Deal, Kent.

The books were originally self-published in 1948[2] by Charles Warrell but, after a brief period when they were published by the Daily Mail (the initial four being At the Circus, Secret Codes, Dogs and In the Country), they were taken over by the now defunct News Chronicle newspaper and based in the paper's building in Bouverie Street.[3] The regular I-SPY column, which appeared in the News Chronicle, reverted to the Daily Mail when the News Chronicle ceased publication, and continued to appear until the late 1980s. The books have had various publishers over the years including the Dickens Press, a company set up to continue the book publishing interests of the 'News Chronicle', and Polystyle Publications, a publisher of children's comics.

The books became very popular, with print runs well into six figures. Big Chief I-Spy had a succession of assistants, usually known as "Hawkeye". In the early 1970s, this position was held by Ralph Mills. Earlier assistants included Max Heinz and John Tagholm. In the 1980s, following a short-lived third Big Chief, Robin Tucek, David Bellamy replaced Big Chief I-Spy as the person to whom completed books were sent, and the earlier Red Indian connections were quietly dropped.

Michelin Travel Publications acquired and published the series from 1991 until 2002 when they effectively ceased publication, there were ad-hoc sales after that date to clear stocks.

I-Spy books were relaunched by Michelin Travel Publications on Monday 7 December 2009, with 12 new titles and a further 12 in Spring 2010. The Bookseller announced the new launch in its 9 October 2009 issue with an interview with Michelin Commercial Director Ian Murray.[4] Mr Murray confirmed that the initial 12 titles will include I Spy Birds, Cars, Trees, On a Car Journey and On a Train Journey. The new I-Spy titles are faithful to the original concept but are fully updated and include all new colour images.

The relaunch of the books and subsequent multiple expansions of the title list suggested that their popularity is being enjoyed by a new generation of children.

News Chronicle Series[edit]

I-Spy 6d Series

These followed the same basic format as the early spotter books, as well as keeping the concept of a Big Chief I-Spy, but were issued in a more standard ‘portrait’ format 4” by 5” (13cm by 10cm). Pocket sized, with thinner covers, each I-Spy title had fifty pages or so of pen drawings and descriptive text. The Daily Mail dropped their involvement after the previous spotterbook series, and the new look books were launched in conjunction with The News Chronicle newspaper around 1951. By 1952 the first six of the new titles were in print, with four more planned. The series was in print until 1966, with older titles refreshed every so often and updated.

The News Chronicle was taken over by The Daily Mail in 1960 and closed, but the I-SPY books were by now so popular that The Daily Mail decided to re-associate themselves with the publication once more. The covers were redesigned to remove the News Chronicle name but The Daily Mail logo was only seen inside the books. Around 1963 even this was removed and the titles were simply published by The Dickens Press (who printed The Mail). With all these changes, up to five distinct editions of some titles exist.

  • 1. At the Seaside
  • 2. On the Farm
  • 3. History
  • 4. On a Train Journey
  • 5. Dogs
  • 6. In the Country
  • 7. At the Zoo – Animals
  • 8. At the Zoo – Birds and Reptiles
  • 9. In the Street
  • 10. On the Road
  • 11. The Sights of London
  • 12. Horses and Ponies
  • 13. Ships and Harbours
  • 14. Boats and Waterways
  • 15. Aircraft
  • 16. Cars
  • 17. The Army
  • 18. The Wheel
  • 19. Sport
  • 20. People and Places
  • 21. Musical Instruments
  • 22. Men at Work – Building
  • 23. Antique Furniture
  • 24. The Unusual
  • 25. Road Transport
  • 26. Town Crafts
  • 27. Country Crafts
  • 28. The Sky
  • 29. People In Uniform / People
  • 30. Motorcycles and Cycles
  • 31. Bridges
  • 32. Sports Cars
  • 33. Roadmaking
  • 34. The Land
  • 35. Everyday Machines
  • 36. In Hospital
  • 37. Pets
  • 38. On the Pavement
  • 39. Churches


I-Spy Colour Series

A companion range of 1/- books, the I-Spy Colour Series was the same size and actually had the same number of pages as their 6d cousins, but used better, thicker quality paper and some inside pages in full colour. Launched probably in 1952 with the first two titles, the colour series issued two new titles each year for a while. The colour books were all natural history subjects and the aim seems to have been to emulate similar but more expensive offerings from publishers like Ladybird and Observers. Eight titles were issued with the News Chronicle name, and only with the last did they move into more familiar I-Spy territory with In The Garden. When the News Chronicle closed, four further colour titles followed under the Dickens Press name. These were new editions of titles which had originally appeared in the 6d black and white series but been discontinued. The last title came out in 1963 and the 12 books were never numbered. The listing below is the order in which the titles were released. The covers of some of the titles were later updated, and then appeared without the News Chronicle logo.

  • Birds
  • Wild Flowers
  • Butterflies and Moths
  • Wild Fruits and Fungi
  • Trees
  • Insects
  • In Pond and Stream
  • In the Garden
  • Horses and Ponies
  • Zoo Animals
  • Dogs
  • Fish and Fishing


I-Spy Super Series

A larger format launched around 1965 that was very short lived.

  • Abroad
  • All the Year Round
  • Animals in Danger
  • Archaeology
  • At the Zoo
  • British Wild Animals
  • Cars
  • Garden Flowers
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Train Journey
  • On the Seashore
  • Ships and Boats

The Dickens Press / Polystyle Publications Limited / Ravette Limited[edit]

Published from 1967 to 1982. The 1974 price was 12p.

  • Animals at the Zoo
  • Archeology
  • At the Airport
  • At the Seaside
  • Birds
  • Birds and Reptiles at the Zoo
  • British Coins
  • British Wildlife
  • Buses and Coaches
  • Butterflies & Moths
  • Car Numbers
  • Cars
  • Churches
  • Civil Aircraft
  • Cricket
  • Dogs
  • Farm Animals
  • Fishing / Fish and Fishing
  • Football
  • Foreign Coins
  • History
  • Horses and Ponies
  • In Spring and Summer
  • In the Country
  • In the Hedgerow
  • In the Street
  • In the Wood
  • Industry
  • London From Trafalgar Square
  • Lorries and Vans
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Train Journey
  • On the Motorway
  • On the Road
  • On the Seashore
  • On the Street
  • Pets
  • Ships and Boats
  • The Sky
  • Stamps
  • Starter Book
  • Trees
  • Wild Flowers

I-Spy with David Bellamy[edit]

Published from 1983 to 1985.

  • Archeology
  • At the Airport
  • At the Art Gallery
  • Birds and Reptiles at the Zoo
  • British Coins
  • British Wildlife
  • Car Numbers
  • Cars
  • Civil Aircraft
  • Creepy Crawlies
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fish and Fishing
  • Garden Birds
  • Garden Flowers All the Year Round
  • Membership and Code Book
  • Night Sky
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Day at the Seaside
  • On a Train Journey
  • On the Farm
  • Pets
  • Pond Life
  • Supermarkets
  • Trees
  • Wild Flowers

Michelin Series[edit]

Michelin Original Launch (February 1991 to May 2000)

Includes four 'Mini Atlases' and a special colour edition for the opening of The Channel Tunnel (£1.25).

  • Aircraft
  • At the Airport
  • At the Seaside
  • Bicycles
  • Big Diggers and Working machines
  • Birds
  • Birds of Prey and Owls
  • Buses & Taxis
  • Butterflies and Moths
  • Caravans and Motor Caravans
  • Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches
  • Cars
  • Cars II
  • Castles
  • Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches
  • The Channel Tunnel
  • Classic Cars
  • Computers
  • Creepy Crawlies
  • Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Animals
  • Dogs
  • Fishing and How To Do It
  • Flags
  • Football
  • Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends
  • Green Britain
  • Hadrian's Wall
  • History
  • Horses and Ponies
  • In France
  • In Scotland
  • In the Country
  • In the Lake District
  • In the Night Sky
  • In the Town
  • Inn signs
  • London (96 pages)
  • Michelin Mini Atlas Britain
  • Michelin Mini Atlas France
  • Michelin Mini Atlas Italy
  • Michelin Mini Atlas The World
  • Minerals, Rocks and Fossils
  • Motorcycles
  • Motor Sport
  • Music
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Car Journey II
  • On a Ferry
  • On a Train Journey
  • On the Motorway & Car Numbers
  • On the Seashore
  • Nature
  • Pets
  • Ships and Boats
  • Sports
  • Steam Engines and Locomotives
  • Stonehenge and Historic Wessex
  • Surrey
  • Trees
  • Trucks and Trucking
  • Trucks and Working Vehicles
  • The Weather
  • Wild Flowers
  • Zoos and Wildlife


Michelin Relaunch (Dec 2009 to June 2013)

Includes three boxed sets (one of which is made up of 70 individual cards).

  • Ancient Britain
  • Animals
  • At the Airport
  • At the Seaside
  • Bath
  • Birds
  • Book of Facts
  • Cambridge
  • Camping
  • Car Badges
  • Car Collection (4 book boxed set containing Cars, Car Badges, Classic Cars, Every Vehicle on the Road, Notebook)
  • Cars
  • Castles and Battles
  • Classic Cars
  • Cool Cars
  • Cotswolds
  • Creepy Crawlies
  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals
  • Dogs
  • Edinburgh
  • Every Vehicle on the Road
  • Explore London (126 page edition)
  • Flags
  • Football Grounds
  • Goodwood Festival of Speed
  • Great Britain
  • Green Britain
  • High Weald: Things to spot in the countryside of Kent, Sussex and Surrey
  • History
  • In the Countryside
  • In the Garden
  • In the Street
  • Isle of Wight
  • Kings and Queens
  • Lake District
  • London
  • London's Transport
  • Minerals, Rocks and Fossils
  • Mini World Atlas
  • Modern Britain
  • Nature
  • Nature Collection (4 book boxed set containing Nature, In the Garden, Trees, Wild Flowers, Notebook)
  • The Night Sky
  • Noteboook
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Car Journey in France
  • On a Ferry
  • On a Road Trip
  • On a Train Journey
  • On the Motorway
  • On the Water
  • Out and About Car Set (boxed set of 70 cards and Notebook)
  • Oxford
  • Paris
  • People and Places
  • Scottish Nature
  • Sports and Games
  • Trees
  • Wild Flowers
  • Working Vehicles

HarperCollins[edit]

What can you spot? (2016 to 2018)

  • At the Airport
  • At the Gallery
  • At the Museum
  • At the Seaside
  • At the Shops
  • At the Zoo
  • Birds
  • Butterflies and Moths
  • Camping
  • Car Badges
  • Cars
  • Cool Cars
  • Creepy Crawlies
  • Dogs
  • Every Vehicle on the Road
  • Flags
  • Football Grounds
  • Garden Birds
  • Holiday Sticker Book
  • In the City
  • In the Countryside
  • In the Garden
  • In the Night Sky
  • In the Street
  • London
  • Nature
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Car Journey in France
  • On a Ferry
  • On a Road Trip
  • On a Train Journey
  • On the Motorway
  • Something Beginning With...
  • Trees
  • Wild Flowers


Spy It! Solve It! (2020)

  • At the Airport
  • At the Airport Activity Book
  • At the Seaside
  • At the Seaside Activity Book
  • Birds
  • Car Badges
  • Cars
  • Creepy Crawlies
  • Every Vehicle on the Road
  • In the Countryside
  • In the Countryside Activity Book
  • In the Garden
  • In the Night Sky
  • Nature
  • On a Car Journey
  • On a Car Journey Activity Book
  • On a Train Journey Activity Book

I-SPY for Grown Ups[edit]

Spoof series released by HarperCollins in 2016.

  • Signs and Instructions You Must Obey
  • The UK While It Lasts
  • At the School Gate
  • Pets When Human Friendship Is Not Enough

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Big Chief I-Spy's Legacy in 2010". BBC News Online. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  2. ^ I-SPY SPOTTERBOOKS 1948 series, Easy on the Eye. Retrieved on 4 October 2018.
  3. ^ I-SPY (Daily Mail; News Chronicle; Michelin; etc.) - Book Series List, publishinghistory.com. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  4. ^ Felicity Wood (9 October 2009), Michelin spots series and gets to play I-Spy again, The Bookseller[permanent dead link]