Guinness World Records, known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records (and in previous U.S. editions as The Guinness Book of World Records), is a reference book published annually, containing a collection of world records, both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world. The book itself holds a world record, as the best-selling copyrighted book series of all time. It is also one of the most stolen books from public libraries in the United States.
Beaver’s idea became reality when Guinness World Record employee Christopher Chataway recommended student twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, who had been running a fact-finding agency in London. The brothers were commissioned to compile what became The Guinness Book of Records in August 1954. One thousand copies were printed and given away.
Because the book became a surprise hit, many further editions were printed, eventually settling into a pattern of one revision a year, published in October to coincide with Christmas sales. The McWhirters continued to publish it and related books for many years. Both brothers had an encyclopedic memory—on the TV series Record Breakers, based upon the book, they would take questions posed by children in the audience on various world records and were usually able to give the correct answer. Ross McWhirter was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1975. Following McWhirter's assassination, the feature in the show where questions about records posed by children were answered was called Norris on the Spot .
The ousting of Norris McWhirter from his consulting role in 1995 and the subsequent decision by Diageo Plc to sell the Guinness World Records brand have shifted it from a text-oriented reference book, to an illustrated product. This shift means that the majority of world records are no longer listed in the book (or on the website), and can only be determined by a written application to Guinness to 'break' the record. For those unable to wait the 4–6 weeks for a reply, Guinness will process a 'fast-track' application for £300 (~US$450).