Wild Swan Books
About Wild Swan
Following the publication of "The Highworth Branch" by T.M. Smith and G.S. Heathcliffe in 1979 (the very first book to appear under the "Wild Swan" name) Paul Karau and June Judge went on to establish an unassailable reputation for producing meticulously put together, well written and beautifully produced railway books on a wide range of topics.
For the record, and right up to the sale of the business at the end of 2014, Wild Swan had produced 317 books. This number includes all the "monograph" titles but excludes the magazine issues of British, Model and Great Western Railway Journal. To save you working it out this is an average of 9 books per year, although numbers produced in any one year have varied and from scrutiny of original documents the largest number ever produced in one year was 20 in 2007.
With few exceptions the combination of subjects chosen, the care with which the books are put together and Paul's talent for layout and design have consistently set Wild Swan titles at the leading edge of railway publishing, they are that rare book that you can buy unseen without fear of disappointment.
Just as Oxford Publishing arguably led to Wild Swan being set up, Wild Swan has in turn nurtured a number of individuals into the publishing world and in the process given rise to Irwell Press, Lightmoor, Noodle and numerous other smaller publishing ventures along the way.
Of course the books and Paul have not escaped criticism over the years. Criticisms have included the exclusion of history after the end of steam, a lack of colour photography, the lack of clever technologically driven graphic devices, the non completion of series, occasional odd mixes of softbacks and hardbacks within groups of books,a lack of future announcements, lack of a website and lack of an e-mail address.
Strangely, the biggest criticism has come to be Paul's apparently quixotic reluctance to lay out his work on a computer, instead sticking with the traditional "paste up" method of laying out books. Strange because this fact didn't really bear any relation to the quality of the finished product, it may indeed limit "graphic freedom" in designing layout, but arguably it also contributed to Wild Swan's style. To be fair this might not suit everyone, but if push came to shove restrained halftone conservatism is probably preferrable to over exuberant graphic complexity.
In December 2014 Paul Karau and June Judge sold the book business of Wild Swan Publications to Simon Castens of the Titfield Thunderbolt bookshop. Magazine publishing would remain with Paul under the name "Cygnet Magazines" whilst the book side of the business would henceforth operate under the name of "Wild Swan Books".
This marked a retirement of sorts for Paul after 35 years of producing books that had set new standards for railway publishing, many Wild Swan titles are still amongst those most sought after by enthusiasts and collectors alike. Paul would remain involved on the creative and production side of the new business for the foreseeable future.
Wild Swan StyleWild Swan books:
- Are written in grammatically correct, properly punctuated and well phrased English, without typographical errors.
- Cover subjects that are properly explored and described, with text being based upon and backed up by thorough research and the experience and interest of the author(s).
- Feature photographs that are well chosen, relevant to the subject and beautifully reproduced and printed on to quality paper.
- Are produced to a consistently high standard and have a layout and style that carries through from title to title, giving them a unique and distinctive character. Their design has tended towards a traditional approach which sits well with the historic subjects covered.
In addition to the above, it is probably fair to say that the prices of Wild Swan books are at the higher end of the market, although as a number of books remain in stock some years after their first publication there exists a wide "pence per page" variation across the range.
The fundamental reason for this price "premium" is the great care taken in the preparation and production of Wild Swan books. Photographs are scanned using high quality equipment and the images thus produced are worked upon to give the best possible results when printed on to paper, by people who understand both the printing process and the requirements of the publisher.
All of this pre-press work together with printing and binding takes place within the UK by companies and individuals renowned for the quality of their work. Current Wild Swan books are printed by the Amadeus Press in Cleckheaton, near Bradford in Yorkshire.