''Guinness World Records'', known from its inception in 1955 until 1999 as ''The Guinness Book of Records'' and in previous United States editions as ''The Guinness Book of World Records'', is a reference book published annually, listing
world record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill, sport, or other kind of activity. The book '' Guinness World Records'' collates and publishes notable rec ...
s both of human achievements and the extremes of the natural world. The brainchild of Sir Hugh Beaver, the book was co-founded by twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter in
Fleet Street Fleet Street is a major street mostly in the City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre a ...

Fleet Street
London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its estuary leading to the Nor ...
, in August 1954. As of the 2021 edition, it is now in its 66th year of publication, published in 100 countries and 23 languages, and maintains over 53,000 records in its database. The international franchise has extended beyond print to include television series and museums. The popularity of the franchise has resulted in ''Guinness World Records'' becoming the primary international authority on the cataloguing and verification of a huge number of world records. The organisation employs record adjudicators to verify the authenticity of the setting and breaking of records.


On 10 November 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the
Breweries, went on a shooting party in the North Slob, by the
River Slaney The River Slaney () is a large river in the southeast of Ireland. It rises on Lugnaquilla, Lugnaquilla Mountain in the western Wicklow Mountains and flows west and then south through counties County Wicklow, Wicklow, County Carlow, Carlow and C ...
County Wexford County Wexford ( ga, Contae Loch Garman) is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain ...
, Ireland. After missing a shot at a golden plover, he became involved in an argument over which was the fastest
game bird Galliformes is an order (biology), order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds that includes turkey (bird), turkey, chicken, Old World quail, quail, and other landfowl. Gallinaceous birds, as they are called, are important as seed dispersers and ...
in Europe, the golden plover or the
red grouse The red grouse (''Lagopus lagopus scotica'') is a medium-sized bird of the grouse family which is found in heather moorland Moorland or moor is a type of habitat In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λ ...

red grouse
– it is the plover. That evening at Castlebridge House, he realised that it was impossible to confirm in reference books whether or not the golden plover was Europe's fastest game bird. Beaver knew that there must have been numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Ireland and abroad, but there was no book in the world with which to settle arguments about records. He realised then that a book supplying the answers to this sort of question might prove successful. Beaver's idea became reality when Guinness employee
Christopher Chataway Sir Christopher John Chataway (31 January 1931 – 19 January 2014) was a British middle distance running, middle- and long-distance runner, television news broadcaster, and Conservative Party (UK), Conservative politician. Education He was b ...
recommended university friends Norris and Ross McWhirter, who had been running a fact-finding agency in London. The twin brothers were commissioned to compile what became ''The Guinness Book of Records,'' in August 1954. A thousand copies were printed and given away. After the founding of ''The Guinness Book of Records'' office at 107
Fleet Street Fleet Street is a major street mostly in the City of London The City of London is a City status in the United Kingdom, city, Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county and local government district that contains the historic centre a ...

Fleet Street
, London, the first 198-page edition was bound on 27 August 1955 and went to the top of the British best seller lists by Christmas. The following year, it launched in the US, and sold 70,000 copies. Since then, ''Guinness World Records'' has sold more than 100 million copies in 100 countries and 37 languages. Because the book became a surprise hit, many further editions were printed, eventually settling into a pattern of one revision a year, published in September/October, in time for Christmas. The McWhirters continued to compile it 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 able to give the correct answer. Ross McWhirter#Assassination, Ross McWhirter was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1975. Following Ross's assassination, the feature in the show where questions about records posed by children were answered was called ''Norris on the Spot''. Guinness Superlatives, later Guinness World Records Limited, was formed in 1954 to publish the first book. Sterling Publishing owned the rights to the ''Guinness'' book in the US for decades. The group was owned by Guinness PLC and subsequently Diageo until 2001, when it was purchased by Gullane Entertainment for $65 million. Gullane was itself purchased by HIT Entertainment in 2002. In 2006, Apax Partners purchased HIT and subsequently sold Guinness World Records in early 2008 to the Jim Pattison Group, the parent company of Ripley Entertainment, which is licensed to operate Guinness World Records' Attractions. With offices in New York City and Tokyo, Guinness World Records' global headquarters remain in London, while its museum attractions are based at Ripley headquarters in Orlando, Florida, US.


Recent editions have focused on record feats by person competitors. Competitions range from obvious ones such as Olympic weightlifting to the longest egg tossing distances, or for longest time spent playing ''Grand Theft Auto IV'' or the number of hot dogs that can be consumed in three minutes. Besides records about competitions, it contains such facts such as the heaviest tumour, the most poisonous fungus, the longest-running soap opera and the most valuable life-insurance policy, among others. Many records also relate to the youngest people to have achieved something, such as the youngest person to visit all nations of the world; it is Maurizio Giuliano. Each edition contains a selection of the records from the Guinness World Records database, as well as select new records, with the criteria for inclusion changing from year to year. The retirement of Norris McWhirter from his consulting role in 1995 and the subsequent decision by Diageo Plc to sell The Guinness Book of Records brand have shifted the focus of the books from text-oriented to illustrated reference. A selection of records are curated for the book from the full archive but all existing Guinness World Records titles can be accessed by creating a login on the company's website. Applications made by individuals for existing record categories are free of charge. There is an administration fee of $5 to propose a new record title. A number of spin-off books and television series have also been produced. ''Guinness World Records'' bestowed the record of "Person with the most records" on Ashrita Furman of Queens, NY, in April 2009; at that time, he held 100 records and currently holds over 220. In 2005, Guinness designated 9 November as ''International Guinness World Records Day'' to encourage breaking of world records. In 2006, an estimated 100,000 people participated in over 10 countries. Guinness reported 2,244 new records in 12 months, which was a 173% increase over the previous year. In February 2008, NBC aired ''The Top 100 Guinness World Records of All Time'' and Guinness World Records made the complete list available on their website.

Defining records

File:Fiann Paul, Alex Gregory, Carlo Facchino, Arctic Ocean Rowing, Northernmost latitude.jpg, alt=The team achieved 14 performance based Guinness World Records and other records., Fiann Paul, Alex Gregory and Carlo Facchino aboard Polar Row, the most record breaking expedition in history. For many records, ''Guinness World Records'' is the effective authority on the exact requirements for them and with whom records reside, the company providing adjudicators to events to determine the veracity of record attempts. The list of records which the ''Guinness World Records'' covers is not fixed, records may be added and also removed for various reasons. The public are invited to submit applications for records, which can be either the bettering of existing records or substantial achievements which could constitute a new record. The company also provides corporate services for companies to "harness the power of record-breaking to deliver tangible success for their businesses."

Ethical and safety issues

''Guinness World Records'' states several types of records it will not accept for ethical reasons, such as those related to the killing or harming of animals. Several world records that were once included in the book have been removed for ethical reasons, including concerns for the well-being of potential record breakers. For example, following publication of the "heaviest fish" record, many fish owners overfed their pets beyond the bounds of what was healthy, and therefore such entries were removed. The Guinness Book also dropped records within their "eating and drinking records" section of Human Achievements in 1991 over concerns that potential competitors could harm themselves and expose the publisher to potential lawsuit, litigation. These changes included the removal of all distilled beverage, spirit, wine and beer drinking records, along with other unusual records for consuming such unlikely things as bicycles and trees. Other records, such as sword swallowing and rally driving (on public roads), were closed from further entry as the current holders had performed beyond what are considered safe human tolerance levels. There have been instances of closed categories being reopened. For example, the sword swallowing category was listed as closed in the 1990 ''Guinness Book of World Records'', but has since been reopened with Johnny Strange breaking a sword swallowing record on Guinness World Records Live. Similarly, the speed beer drinking records which were dropped from the book in 1991, reappeared 17 years later in the 2008 edition, but were moved from the "Human Achievements" section of the older book to the "Modern Society" section of the newer edition. , it is required in the guidelines of all "large food" type records that the item be fully edible, and distributed to the public for consumption, to prevent food wastage. Chain letters are also not allowed: "Guinness World Records does not accept any records relating to chain letters, sent by post or e-mail." At the request of the U.S. Mint, in 1984, the book stopped accepting claims of large hoardings of pennies or other currency.

Difficulty in defining records

For some potential categories, ''Guinness World Records'' has declined to list some records that are too difficult or impossible to determine. For example, its website states: "We do not accept any claims for beauty as it is not Objectivity (science), objectively measurable." An example of this was the record for the Worlds Fastest Violinist, which was suspended as the Guinness World Records released a statement about this on one of the records on their YouTube Channel, due to pressure from YouTube personalities Brett Yang and Eddy Chen, who are the heads of the channel TwoSet Violin, Twoset Violin. Guinness World Records stated that they could not determine if the Violinist in question was playing the notes correctly, and other attributes, such as clearness and articulation. However, other categories of human skill relating to measurable speed such as "Worlds Fastest Clapper" were instated. On 27 July 2010, Connor May (NSW, Australia) set the record for 743 claps in 1 minute. On 10 December 2010, ''Guinness World Records'' stopped its new "dreadlock" category after investigation of its first and only female title holder, Asha Mandela, determining it was impossible to judge this record accurately.

Change in business model

Traditionally, the company made a large amount of its revenue via book sales to interested readers, especially children. The rise of the Internet began to cut into book sales in the 2000s and forward, part of a general decline in the book industry. According to a 2017 story by Planet Money of NPR, Guinness began to realise that a lucrative new revenue source to replace falling book sales was the would-be record-holders themselves. While any person can theoretically send in a record to be verified for free, the process is slow and manual for this. Would-be record breakers that paid fees ranging from US$12,000 to US$500,000 would be given advisors, adjudicators, help in finding good records to break as well as suggestions for how to do it, prompt service, and so on. In particular, corporations and celebrities seeking a publicity stunt to launch a new product or draw attention to themselves began to hire Guinness World Records, paying them for finding a record to break or to create a new category just for them. ''Guinness World Records'' was criticised by television talk show host John Oliver on the program ''Last Week Tonight with John Oliver'' in August 2019. Oliver pointed serious criticism at Guinness for taking money from Authoritarianism, authoritarian governments for pointless vanity projects as it related to the main focus of his story, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. Oliver asked for Guinness to work with ''Last Week Tonight'' to adjudicate a record for "Largest cake featuring a picture of someone falling off a horse," but according to Oliver, the offer did not work out after Guinness insisted on a non-disparagement clause. ''Guinness World Records'' denied the accusations and stated that they declined Oliver's offer to participate because "it was merely an opportunity to mock one of our record-holders," and that Oliver did not specifically request the record for the largest marble cake. As of 2021, the Guinness World Record for "Largest marble cake" remains with Betty Crocker, Betty Crocker Middle East, set in Saudi Arabia.


In 1976, a ''Guinness Book of World Records'' museum opened in the Empire State Building. Speed shooter Bob Munden then went on tour promoting ''The Guinness Book of World Records'' by performing his record fast draws with a standard weight single-action revolver from a Western movie-type holster. His fastest time for a draw was 0.02 seconds. Among exhibits were life-size statues of the world's tallest man, Robert Wadlow, and world's largest earthworm, an X-ray photo of a sword swallower, repeated lightning strike victim Roy Sullivan's hat complete with lightning holes and a pair of gem-studded golf shoes on sale for $6,500. The museum closed in 1995. In more recent years, the Guinness company has permitted the franchising of small museums with displays based on the book, all currently () located in towns popular with tourists: Tokyo, Copenhagen, San Antonio. There were once Guinness World Records museums and exhibitions at the London Trocadero, Bangalore, San Francisco, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Florida, Orlando, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Las Vegas Valley, Las Vegas, Nevada. The Orlando museum, which closed in 2002, was branded ''The Guinness Records Experience''; the Hollywood, Niagara Falls, Copenhagen, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Gatlinburg, Tennessee museums also previously featured this branding.

Television series

Guinness World Records has commissioned various television series documenting world record breaking attempts, including: Specials: * ''Guinness World Records: 50 Years, 50 Records'' - on ITV (UK), 11 September 2004 With the popularity of reality television, Guinness World Records began to market itself as the originator of the television genre, with slogans such as ''we wrote the book on Reality TV''.

Gamer's edition

In 2008, Guinness World Records released its gamer's edition, a branch that keeps records for popular video game high scores, code and feats in association with Twin Galaxies. The Gamer's Edition contains 258 pages, over 1,236 video game related world records and four interviews including one with Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day. The most recent edition is the ''Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2020,'' which was released 5 September 2019.

''The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles''

''The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles'' was a music reference book first published in 1977. It was compiled by BBC Radio 1 DJs Paul Gambaccini and Mike Read with brothers Tim Rice and Jonathan Rice. It was the first in a number of music reference books that were to be published by Guinness Publishing with sister publication ''The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums'' coming in 1983. After being sold to Hit Entertainment, the data concerning the Official Chart Company's singles and albums charts were combined under the title ''British Hit Singles & Albums'', with Hit Entertainment publishing the book from 2003 to 2006 (under the Guinness World Records brand). After Guinness World Records was sold to The Jim Pattison Group, it was effectively replaced by a series of books published by Ebury Publishing/Random House with the ''The Virgin Book of British Hit Singles, Virgin Book of British Hit Singles'' first being published in 2007 and with a ''Hit Albums'' book following two years later.''The Virgin Book of British Hit Albums'' by Martin Roach (Ebury Publishing/Random House ISBN: 9780753517000)

Other media and products

Board game

In 1975, Parker Brothers marketed a board game, ''The Guinness Game of World Records'', based on the book. Players compete by setting and breaking records for activities such as the longest streak of rolling dice before rolling doubles, stacking plastic pieces, and bouncing a ball off alternating sides of a card, as well as answering trivia questions based on the listings in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Video games

A video game, ''Guinness World Records: The Video Game'', was developed by TT Fusion and released for Nintendo DS, Wii and iOS in November 2008.


In 2012, Warner Bros. announced the development of a live-action film version of ''Guinness World Records'' with Daniel Chun as scriptwriter. The film version will apparently use the heroic achievements of record holders as the basis for a narrative that should have global appeal.


External links

* * {{Authority control Guinness World Records, Book series introduced in 1955 Publications established in 1955 Trivia books World record databases Reference publishers Articles containing video clips Records (superlatives) Annual publications 1955 non-fiction books 1955 establishments in the United Kingdom Gullane Entertainment