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Practical Electrical Engineer

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john fletcher 126/05/2019 17:21:04
524 forum posts

Years ago Newnes published a series of booklets 1 - 40 (I have 1 - 40) titled "Practical Electrical Engineer". These books are full of proven electrical information, from basic domestic house wiring, distribution transformer, motor rewinds etc. I think they were published around 1930/40 era. Does any reader know better

Bandersnatch26/05/2019 18:42:41
1215 forum posts
40 photos

ABE Books would seem to agree

Clive Foster26/05/2019 20:20:17
1807 forum posts
59 photos

Newnes produced several magazine format series on technical subjects during the 1930's. they also did a rather nice set of UK road maps. There was an official binding service to convert your stack of magazines into a nicely produced hardback book. I have the map set in both unbound magazine and bound book form. Frankly the bound set is better produced than a goodly percentage of proper hardbacks.

Most were subsequently re-issued in multi-volume book format from approximately early 1940's to mid - late 1950's with various revisions to keep the contents semi up to date. Unlike Caxtons similar productions Newnes never bothered with copyright or publication dates so actual dating is hard. If you have a stack its usually possible to sort them into order. I've managed to collect most of the sets of interest to folk like us.

Newnes publications were mostly edited by Edward Molloy whilst Caxtons were done by Arthur W Judge. Both of whom must have been extremely industrious fellows. No fancy desktop computer word processors, just pen, paper and typewriter in those days.


Bandersnatch27/05/2019 01:07:48
1215 forum posts
40 photos

... and the ubiquitous F.J. Camm doesn't get a mention? Though perhaps a little later in time.

Edited By Bandersnatch on 27/05/2019 01:10:52

Nicholas Farr27/05/2019 09:37:20
1945 forum posts
925 photos

Hi John, I can remember my father getting Newnes "Complete Engineer" which came in 40 weekly parts, each part had a number of pages from four volumes. This was either the late 50's or early 60's and each part came with a data sheet, I have all these parts and data sheets, but they are not all what my father collected, so I'm guessing some of them went missing over the years.

complete engineer 1.jpg

complete engineer 2.jpg

complete engineer 3.jpg

However, I also have four bound volumes of Newnes "Complete Electrical Engineer" which were also my fathers' these have always been bound all my know life, but I guess they were published in 48 parts because there were 48 data sheets that accompanied them, which I have all but No. 44.

complete  electrical engineer 1.jpg

complete electrical engineer 2.jpg

So I don't know if these "Complete Electrical Engineer" volumes are the same publication that you are enquiring about. The four volumes contain 3056 pages including the index, plus 2 errata pages in volume four. Although there are no dates that I have found, I would think that these were published around 1930/40's

Regards Nick..

Paul Lousick27/05/2019 09:38:21
1151 forum posts
492 photos

The Internet Arcive is a is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites and may have what you are looking for.

Internet Archive

Entering Newnes in their search box brings up publications by Newnes


Another one of their archives is for early editions of Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics

Enjoy your reading, Paul.

SillyOldDuffer27/05/2019 10:20:02
4601 forum posts
988 photos

I find older technical material like Newnes and ICS far more interesting than most new text books. I think it's because the older stuff tends to be written with a practical slant whereas new books are too academic and dull. Anyone else think the same, or is it just me?


PS Not saying all modern text-books are dull, there are exceptions.

Nicholas Farr27/05/2019 10:37:28
1945 forum posts
925 photos

Hi, just found this **LINK** about the "Complete Electrical Engineering" volumes I have, which put them at 1934. But mine don't have it stated as "Fist Edition" and have darkish red hard covers and no rear pockets.

Regards Nick.

Edited By Nicholas Farr on 27/05/2019 11:04:18

Clive Foster27/05/2019 11:03:10
1807 forum posts
59 photos


Complete Electrical Engineering can be found with green, blue and red covers. My impression is that green was the original first edition covers. Mine are blue and say revised but have no edition number but look and feel is late wartime or early post war.

If you have a stack of these collections from different years there is an obvious evolution of the Newnes house style over the years. I only have blue and red covers in my various collections.

My I'mpression is that the first edition books were lightly revised versions off the part work magazine format ones. Don't know if the revisions were just to better fit the book format or whether there were any significant changes in content. My guess is that content changes were more typing up, re-wording and similar presentational issues rather than in the hard information.


Fowlers Fury27/05/2019 11:09:54
323 forum posts
72 photos

Maybe drifting a bit off topic, but the complete collection of the Meccano Magazine is available on-line.

For anyone unfamiliar with the old magazine, it is not exclusively about Meccano, but contains fascinating articles covering all aspects of engineering.

Nicholas Farr27/05/2019 11:48:10
1945 forum posts
925 photos

Hi Clive, thanks for the info. As it happens, I found this advert on the inside front cover of part 40 of the "Complete Engineer" collection that I have. The four volumes of the "Complete Electrical Engineering" that I have, were printed by the same printers i.e. Hazell, Watson & Viney Ltd. If these four volumes where available in the same way in the 30's/40's, he would have had the means to have had the bound by such an offer that may have been available at that time, as he was still a single man then.

complete engineer 4.jpg

The actual spines of the four volumes I have look like this.

complete electrical engineering 3.jpg

Regards Nick.

Edited By Nicholas Farr on 27/05/2019 11:57:32

Tim Stevens27/05/2019 15:07:03
1056 forum posts

I have just acquired 'the Electrical Encyclopedia' - Stubbs - in 4 volumes. It seems to match the style and general ideas of the part-work. It may well be a close relative. I have found reference to a BS 1939, and nothing to hint that they are post war. And I bought vols 1-3 in red, and separately, vol 4 in blue.

And incidentally, I have found two references in them which clarified things -

Chatterton - an insulating compound (Bitumen plus) used on sealing tape. This explains the modern French term for insulating tape, including the vinyl stuff. They took over the word and used it to refer to the tape, not the additive.

Empire Tape - plain strong thin cotton tape used to bind coils when making generator windings etc.

Cheers, Tim

Edited By Tim Stevens on 27/05/2019 15:07:54

Neil Wyatt27/05/2019 21:21:46
16446 forum posts
686 photos
74 articles
Posted by Clive Foster on 26/05/2019 20:20:17:

Newnes publications were mostly edited by Edward Molloy whilst Caxtons were done by Arthur W Judge. Both of whom must have been extremely industrious fellows. No fancy desktop computer word processors, just pen, paper and typewriter in those days.


And copious use of images and text lifted from manufacturers literature, at least by Judge


Georgineer27/05/2019 23:56:02
246 forum posts
13 photos
Posted by Tim Stevens on 27/05/2019 15:07:03:

... Chatterton - an insulating compound (Bitumen plus) used on sealing tape.

I still have my father's stick of Chatterton's Compound and a roll of cloth tape in the come-in-handy box, though they have never come in handy for anything in all the years I've had them. The compound is applied to the tape by melting the end of the stick, typically with a soldering iron.


Nicholas Farr27/05/2019 23:59:33
1945 forum posts
925 photos

Hi, well it really does pay to read the small print. Further to my first post about the "Complete Engineer" I have to correct myself, as I just happened to notice on the back cover at the bottom this small print.

complete engineer 5.jpg

This has at the end of the sentence 8.11.39 and it shows that I was a decade or so out on the date, well I was only about seven when I first saw my fathers weekly issues. This lead me to find the advert in ME November 9 1939 shown below.

complete engineer 6.jpg

However, getting back to John's enquiry, I came across this **LINK** no dates given but there is one issue with the title he gave, which says; "To be completed in about 32 weekly parts" another issue that is titled "Complete Electrical Engineering" which says; "To be completed in about 48 weekly parts" which is What I had expected of the four volumes that I have of my father's.

Regards Nick.

Nicholas Farr28/05/2019 00:23:24
1945 forum posts
925 photos

Hi, this is what is said in my volume 3 about Chatterton's Compound.

chattertons compound.jpg

There are 37 pages altogether about electrical insulation in this volume.

Regards Nick.

John Paton 128/05/2019 21:22:47
170 forum posts
6 photos

Another relevant one for us is Engineer Apprentice - I have one or two from the late 50's.

John Paton 128/05/2019 21:24:09
170 forum posts
6 photos

I should add that Engineer Apprentice was published by Trade and Technical Press

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