ON THIS PAGE: Reviews of a selection of new in print and recently out-of-print books and CDs of interest to the vintage radio restorer/enthusiast. Looking for info on magazines? Select 'magazines' on the above navigation panel. Interested in finding out some of the history of Practical Wireless? Click on ''PW' on the navigation. If you are looking to purchase older used books on the general subject of valve radio, click on 'OUT OF PRINT' in the above navigation panel. 

 Please note: the items discussed on this page are NOT supplied by Vintage Radio World

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Radio! Radio!

By Jonathan Hill

  Expensive but large and packed with the details of radios from the very earliest efforts through to the transistor era. Recommended without reservation - it is worth every penny. Absolutely essential reading for every vintage radio collector. Don't be without it.

Published by Sunrise Press. ISBN 0 9511448 71

 The Cat's Whisker - 50 years of wireless design

Another interesting book by Jonathan Hill, detailing design points of a variety of types of radio (crystal set, mains, transportable, battery etc) over the time period of the title. Well illustrated with plenty of monochrome photographs.

Published by Oresko Books, London but may be out of print or republished by others by now. My copy is 20 years old! Worth finding.

ISBN 0 905368 46 9  

Obsession: A life in Wireless 

By Gerald Wells

Well known as the founder of the Vintage Wireless Museum, the late Gerry Wells led a colourful and active life, driven by his obsession for vintage radio. At first glance it might not seem that such a life would make for interesting reading but make no mistake, this is one of those rarities that, once you open its pages, you will be unable to close them. It is by turns fascinating, funny, sad, but always well written and totally absorbing. The only minor criticism I can make is that although the book is well produced, the quality of the photographs leaves quite a lot to be desired: but then the book is not about photos, rather it is about the life and times of a unique character. Verdict, overall: quite brilliant. Read it or miss out on something special.

Published by BVWS, free to members and a bargain £6 to others. Check the BVWS website for ordering details.

Radio Art

By Robert Hawes

A great looking book, lots of superb photographs of vintage British and American radios. My copy was purchased mint second-hand, via Barnes and Noble in America. I could not find it in the UK, though it is rumoured to have been republished. Ask for ISBN 1 872532 29 2. Itís published by the Green Wood Publishing Company of London.

Bakelite Radios

No author quoted. A useful though slim book in 'the Collector's Corner' series. Some interesting material about the beginnings of radio though the odd factual error creeps in ('An early transistor radio from just after the second world war' is in fact a late fifties/early sixties receiver complete with miniature transformer and ferrite rod aerial). No information on repair or restoration and only a little on collecting. Still, good for the USA and continental coverage, with pictures of some unusual designs. Worth looking out for.

Quantum Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84013-293-0  

NOTE: The above book has been published in an expanded form and with a larger format under the same title, listing the author as Robert Hawes and the publisher as Eagle Editions. ISBN 1-86160-523-4. Many fine photographs but the error mentioned above still exists. Unless, of course, you consider that the later 1950s is 'just after the war'. An additional section not included in the smaller book is entitled 'A short history of the radio cabinet'. Well worth a read, the pictures remain the best thing about the book.

Bakelite Collectables

By Patrick Cook and Catherine Slessor

 This large-format book has a number of impressive colour plates of Bakelite radio and TV from the golden years among the large variety of Bakelite objet d'art, including some American models. The text is informative but is, typically for these types of book, it comes second to the very attractive illustrations. Well worth a look.

Quantum Books Ltd. ISBN 1-86160-212-X  

   Comprehensive Radio Valve Guides (books 1 to 5)

Republished by Radio Bygones from the original Bernards publications of the 1950s. See 'Radio Bygones' magazine (near the top of this page) for address. At the time of writing, these guides are £3.45 each inc. p&p in UK. and can be purchased by post from Radio Bygones, along with many other useful books and CD-ROMs.  

Twentieth Century Designers

Find out about the movements that inspired the design of radio cabinets during the valve era. This book, covering as it does the whole of the century in which radio itself played such a major part, is by its nature very wide ranging but it does mention the famous names and trends. Well presented, though it can be difficult to navigate. For example, look for 'streamlining' in the index. You won't find it, but it's there, scattered through the famous names such as Loewy. A good read, then, but not easy if you want to make quick references.

Published by Quantum Books, London. ISBN 0-86288-178-1

Dictionary of 20th Century Design and Designers

by Guy Julier

Look up 'streamlining' and 'streamform' and you'll have no trouble finding them in this very useful dictionary-style book. Well worth having, with very readable text and good basic monochrome illustrations. No pretensions to great coffee-table looks, but full of solid facts and information at a reasonable (paperback) price.

Published by Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20269-9

John Logie Baird

Subtitled 'a life'

By Antony Kamm and Malcolm Baird

At £25, this big (465 pages) book is unlikely to become an instant best seller but if the price is not an important consideration, the subject matter should be as Baird has come to be thought of in the public imagination as a slightly potty old-fashioned inventor who spent his life working on a hopeless cause, namely mechanical television.

Why this misconception has come about is a complex matter which this book attempts to correct. It is extremely well researched with all sources exhaustively defined. It is also, and this is a pleasant surprise for such a text, very well written; the text flows easily and smoothly. I found it hard to put down. The mass of company information presented through the central section of the book can become hard going, though frankly how else and how better such material could have been treated is an open question. Here then is the John L. Baird life story in its apparent entirety, from the earliest experiments through to his large screen colour and stereoscopic television: the biography of a brilliant but badly-treated man of great character, driven by his inventive genius (I do not use the word 'genius' lightly) in his quest for television perfection. Had he been an American citizen, his name would now be revered throughout the world, much as is the name of Edison.

A very minor point of criticism: photographs are not the strong point of this book. The half-tone illustrations do not really inform the text and are of a somewhat uninvolving nature, together with a few line diagrams that paint very broad strokes - no technical detail. I understand that Baird was not one to put his ideas down on paper and in any case it is fair to say that the book concentrates on Baird the man rather than his inventions and developments, though of course to a great extent the two are one. 

This is an important book and therefore highly recommended, then, as a very good read if you are interested as I am in an amazing personal story of intrigue, jealousy and underhand dealing, very little of which was Baird's, in truth. Anyone who watched the TV program based on this book would find the biography compelling. I am personally delighted that this very fine biography has become available and I trust it will go some way toward redressing the balance of opinion regarding this remarkable and inventive man.

Hardback. NMS Publishing, ISBN 1 901663 76 0. £25. Obtainable from Radio Bygones bookshelf. See above for address.

Click on this link: JL BAIRD  for a brief appreciation of Baird's life and work.

The Setmakers

by Keith Geddes and Gordon Bussey

This book chronicles the development of the British Radio and Television industry and as such, it is a fascinating read, with the stories behind many famous makes. Inevitably, it is more about the business and the boardroom politics than about the technical aspects, though these are by no means neglected. One slight criticism is that, for my eyesight at any rate, the font size chosen is rather small and takes up a vertical column on each page which is only two-thirds the page width. It could have been increased to fill the space without incurring any additional pages - but then, I suppose, the layout designer would have felt the attractiveness of the layout would have been compromised.

Well illustrated with lots of period material, some in colour. Highly recommended! Buying a copy proved to be tricky. I could not find it on the usual web sites, nor in the high street shops and although it possesses an ISBN, the same sources could not help with ordering, either. Maybe I was unlucky. If so, I hope you have better luck. The copy I read for this brief review was very kindly loaned to me by a friend.

Published by BREMA.  0 9517042 0 6. Price unknown.

F J CAMM The Practical Man

by Gordon G. Cullingham

Here's an oddity. Mr Camm was, of course, the man behind Practical Wireless, Practical Television and a host of other publications. He was a truly prolific writer and produced many books on a range of subjects as well as his radio books.

This is a biography which sticks to the facts - the late Gordon Cullingham was the honorary archivist of the Royal Borough of Windsor, where FJ and his brother, Sir Sidney Camm (the designer of the Hawker Hurricane of WWII fame) were born and raised. 

I believe a biography of FJ Camm has been long overdue and in that respect this is a welcome publication but, in all fairness, it is not an easy read. Far too often, dry facts are repeated almost verbatim, as though a whole stage of editing has been missed out. By the time I reached the end I felt that I knew little more about the man himself than when I opened the book. Of course, I knew where he had lived and worked, about the fact that he was a workaholic, about the fact that he was a heavy smoker and that he died probably as a result of this - but who WAS he? What was he REALLY like? Where were the anecdotes from his many colleagues? Still, having said that, it is to my knowledge, the only record, therefore an important one, about an unusual, skilled and amazingly versatile man and deserves to be read as such.

Having recently re-read this book, I was struck by just how broadly skilled Camm was. His graphic ability was first rate, too. I think someone should make a biopic of his life for cinema or TV. For a potted biography of FJ CAMM, click HERE

ISBN 0 9528448 0 X

The book has now been reprinted in the form of a limited edition and is obtainable from booksellers including Amazon, or direct from

THAMESWEB, PO Box 422, Windsor SL4 3UJ.





From Paul Stenning, these CD ROMs contain many hundreds of service sheets and circuit diagrams. All volumes hold a wide range of equipment with ages spread right across the vintage spectrum of the early thirties to the early sixties. Mostly valve-based, as you would expect, but also on offer is data for a range of early transistor equipment. Covering a very wide range of makes, the material is presented as high-definition files in the easily accessible 'Acrobat' PDF format and can be enlarged considerably without significant loss of quality. I feel these CDs would be of interest to serious vintage radio enthusiasts and to anyone with an interest in the technical history and development of radio. 

There may be offers for combined purchases - see website. VERDICT: A truly excellent product at a very reasonable price.

For more details, or to order any of these products, visit Paul's site on:  http://www.vintage-radio.com The CDs are also available from Radio Bygones magazine.

There is a review of Paul Stenning's excellent web site and forum on the links and sources page.















FJ Camm, The Practical Man (book). Reviewed on 'Things to Read'