Guinness Book of Records book toasts continued success after 60 years

Sixty years ago today, if Swede Hans Jeppson wanted to toast the appearance of his name in the first Guinness Book of Records using the most expensive bottle of wine commercially available, he would have had to spend a staggering £8 on a 1949 Feinste Trockenbeeren Auslese, a white wine from the Rhine Valley.

Guinness Book of Records book toasts continued success after 60 years

Soccer player Jeppson, we assume, could afford it, having appeared in the book when transferred from Napoli to Genoese Atalanta for a headline-grabbing fee of stg £60,375.

That figure seems laughable nowadays, put in context by the fact it is a fraction of the weekly wages of modern soccer superstars.

Obviously, a little more cash is required if your goal is to make the iconic book these days under these categories.

So, for the record, the current entry for the most expensive bottle of wine is a single bottle of Chateau d’Yquem (1811) that sold for £75,000 ($117,000) in London in 2011. Compare that to the £36 and six shillings paid for a Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1806, a record that appeared in the 1961 book.

As for the beautiful game, Gareth Bale is the hot-shot, having transferred from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for £85.30m in 2013.

The Guinness Book of Records, now titled Guinness World Records (GWR) has come a long way in 60 years. Its first edition recorded nebulae at 1,000m light years as the remotest known bodies. Engage the warp drive, as the new edition out next month lists a young galaxy, named UDFj-39546284 and found in the constellation of Fornax, as being an impossible-to-comprehend 13.42bn light years away.

The book also noted that, in 1955, the Pentagon, headquarters to the US military, was the world’s largest office building. It still is, and its widest point is greater than the 443m height of the Empire State Building. In 1955, the New York skyscraper topped the world’s tallest building category, but today it has been replaced by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which is almost double the height at 828m.

The popularity of TV in 1955 saw US comedian Jackie Gleason pocket $65,000 for every weekly, half-hour episode of The Honeymooners. That’s the equivalent of $555,000 today, but it’s still significantly short of the $750,000 paid to Ashton Kutcher of Two and a Half Men.

Funny money, however, went to another comedian in 1998, when Jerry Seinfeld scored the highest annual earnings ever by a TV actor with a cool $267m.

In 1955, no less than six men shared the record for the fastest 100m - set at 10.2secs - including Jesse Owens of the 1936 Berlin Olympics fame. Fast forward to today and one Usain Bolt holds the current record for the 100m, breaking the beam in 9.58 seconds in 2009.

Considering that mores of the modern world, it is no surprise that some types of records are no longer acceptable. GWR, rightly, feels people would get the hump if it continued to carry records on camel wrestling. The claws would be out, too, if the heaviest animal category was not scratched, considering that Himmy the cat weighed 21.3kg (46lb 15 ½ oz) when it died in 1986 at the age of 10 years four months. He was owned by Australian Thomas Vyse and was transported around in a wheelbarrow.

There is no appetite either for records pertaining to gluttony. Guinness has had its fill of overeating, but in the 1983 edition, Edward Abraham Miller of Oakland, California, was recognised as the world’s biggest eater, consuming up to 25,000 calories per day. While you digest that, consider that the typical daily consumption for a man is 2,000 calories.

Some records seem unbreakable.

Bill Gates is currently the world’s richest person with $79.2bn to play around with. Compare that, however, to John D Rockefeller who, in 1913, was estimated to have $900m, equivalent to a staggering $189.6bn today.

Robert Pershing Wadlow remains the tallest man in medical history, reaching 2.72mtr (8ft 11.1in) when last measured in 1940.

The inflation-adjusted $3.44bn taken at the box office internationally by Gone With Wind makes it the highest-grossing film ever, but "tomorrow is another day" and with Phil the Minion and his cohorts having on eye on global dominance, who knows.

Modern records include the most tweets per second (143,199); the most liked person on Facebook, Colombian singer Shakira (107,142,986 ‘likes’ in June 2015, with soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo in second place, boasting 102,782,118 ‘likes’.) Selfies and twerking also now make the grade.

In music, digital is hitting a crescendo, with revenue amounting to $6bn last year. The largest digital music service is iTunes, with nearly 800m user accounts in 2014, while the fastest-selling title in iTunes is Beyoncé’s eponymous album, released without any prior announcement in December 2013, reaching 823,773 copies in its first three days on sale.

The biggest-selling digital artist is Katy Perry, who had, by 2014, sold 72m digital tracks in the US alone.

Piercings and tattoos also feature these days. The most pierced man is Rolf Buchholz from Dortmund, Germany, who (in a single count) had 453 piercings, including 158 around his lips, in 2010. Elaine Davidson had been pierced a total of 4,225 times in her life as of June 2006; she also holds the record for the most piercings in a single count, when 462 were documented in one sitting on May 4, 2000.

The most tattooed man is Lucky Diamond Rich (Australia, born in New Zealand), who has spent over 1,000 hours having his body modified and has covered his entire body in black ink, which is now being tattooed with white designs on top of the black, and coloured designs on top of the white.

As for Irish records, what about the 1,953 schoolchildren who joined hands for the largest "ring-a-ring-o’roses" at The People’s Park in Waterford. They repeated the song for 6.5 minutes, with everyone falling down and getting up in unison. Did you know that 4,572 veteran tractors (over 30 years old) ploughed the same field in Cooley, Co Louth, in 2007, that, Eamonn Hickson managed to reverse a tractor and trailer 17.36km in Annascaul, Co Kerry, in August 2014, or that Fiona Nolan wore 152 socks on one foot in Shannon, Co Clare, in 2011.

Michael Flatley earned $1.6m a week at the peak of success for Lord of the Dance, while money also appeared at the Aviva Stadium in 2012, when, amazingly, 36,222 people simultaneously tossed coins. A mere 911 people played in an exhibition hurling game at Meelin GAA club in Co Cork in 2013.

Sean Murray, Skibbereen, Co Cork, managed to unhook 91 bras in one minute in 2013. Speed also figured for Enda Wright, who vroomed to 173.81kph (108mph) doing a wheelie on the handlebars of a motorcycle. As if that isn’t crazy enough, 395 people performed a raindance at Carton House, Co Kildare, in 2011. After the summer we’ve had, some would feel this is one record that needs to go the way of camel wrestling and fat cats.

A bird, or at least the speed of a bird unknown, was the origin of the Guinness Book of Records.

While shooting in Co Wexford in the 1951, Guinness Brewery managing director Sir Hugh Beaver and his fellow hunters argued about the identity of Europe’s fasterst bird as they shot his slower Irish relatives.

In 1954, recalling his dispute, he had the idea for a Guinness promotion based on the idea of settling pub arguments. Enter the twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, who compile a book of facts and figures, which they do in a converted gym in Fleet St in London. It took 13-and-a-half 90-hour weeks to complete, amounted to 198 pages and sold for five shillings, but brewery staff could get it for half price.

Amazingly, Guinness World Records, as it is now called, claims it never acutally named the fastest bird, as it did not undertake “European-wide superlatives”. Until now that is. So, the record for the fastest game bird in Europe is jointly held by the red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) and the Eider (Somateria mollissima), both of which can probably exceed an air speed of 104 km/h (65 mph).

To date, over 134 million copies – and 3 million e-books - have been sold in 21 languages, in more than 100 countries, which is enough to wrap around the equator.

In addition, GWR TV shows are viewed by over 750 million people worldwide and in 2014, GWR sent judges to over 63 countries to adjudicate events across charities, governments, schools and individuals.

If you think you have what it takes to make a record, Guinness World Records says it must:

Be measurable - Is it the fastest / longest / heaviest / most?

Be breakable - can the record be broken or repeated by someone else?; be standardizable - can the record title be done universally? For example, it cannot be related to something restricted to a region.

Be verifiable - can the claim be proven?;

Have one variable – GWR can verify the largest painting, but would not consider the largest painting by the most people; be an absolute record and not a category - for example, fastest 100m sprint, but not the fastest 100m sprint by a fireman;

Be universal - the proposal must be something, or about something that is known to the world’s majority. It cannot be too specific / regional.

Guinness World Records 2016 edition is available on September 10.

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