11 January 2012

A Journey Back In Time - Part 1

So today I would like you to join me in a journey back in time, to a time a long, long time ago, before I was born and maybe before some of your parents were born even. Gosh, that is a long time ago!

But before we can go on this journey together back through time, we need to understand how money worked in UK before 1971. After 1971, UK money was decimalised so now we have 100 pence make one £1. Before 1971 UK used pounds shillings and pence. There was 240 pennies in each pound but more commonly it was thought of as twelve pennies equals one shilling, twenty shillings equals one pound. So when we go back in time together and you see £.s.d., it stands for pounds shillings and pence

How amounts were written in the past is also different. So if you see 20/- that means 20 shillings, which equals £1 (one pound) 1/6 is one shilling and six pence or 7.5 new pence (£0.075).

As a young 12 year-old the changeover to decimal coinage was quite a change. You can read more about it here. But in actual fact, as you will all know, the decimal system is a lot easier to use as long as you forget about the pre-decimal system and stop converting back in to it.

So how are we going to travel in to the past, Steve? And what has all this got to do with Filofax... Have you been drinking too much of that French wine again.... ???..... Just stand by, I'm getting there. OK? But I needed to prepare you all for this shock... I could have just taken you back in time and said, 'Right here we are' and you wouldn't have known when we were!

Now, to get back in time we aren't going to need a time machine made from a modified DeLorean DMC-12,  the vehicle's time displacement being powered by plutonium, which supplies 1.21 gigawatts of energy to a device they call the "flux capacitor". No, we can do it with a simple desk top document scanner!

So now I need to introduce you to my able assistant... Mrs M or 'The Hand of Philofaxy' to some people, without whose help we wouldn't be on this journey back in time. You see, Mrs M was sorting through an archive box of hers the other day and in it she discovered something that I last saw in the late 1980's - a catalogue for Filofax dating back some considerable time. I thought this had been lost completely so I was very pleased to see it again. How old the catalogue is we aren't quite sure.

So what you are about to see are scanned in images for the pages from the catalogue. Just click on the pictures to see a larger version of each one.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to see Part 2 of this journey back in time!


  1. This is precious! Very interesting sections on "Special Lefax Handbooks". Doctors and stamp collectors books! And the binders portrayed in a drawing! so unique! Kudos for the findings of Ms. M!

  2. Please Sir,
    Did they have Dinosaurs back then?

  3. What an intriguing range of inserts! There used to be a shop in Cambridge called The Organiser Shop which I loved to visit. I remember one wall just full of various inserts and the conversations I had with the owner about organisation. I often wonder what happened to her. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I'm looking forward to part 2.

  4. A wonderful post! Thanks Steve.

  5. What a fantastic find! Brilliant!

  6. I was the same age as you Steve at decimalisation (15th Feb 1971). I can still convert any amount from £sd to £p and vice-versa, instantly in my head. So eighty seven and a half new pence - that's 17/6d in old money!

    My children glaze over at my "party piece" and think of me as very sad!

    To save confusion, it was initially "np" for New Pence. Many older copper coins still say "New Pence" on their face to this day - check your purse!

  7. Hi Scoot
    Yes I've been puzzling over when this might have been printed.

    Originally the company had operated from the premises of W&T Rounce in Appold Street.

    According to 'Filofax Facts' the office that was bombed in WWII was in Aldersgate Street on 30 Dec 1940

    They then moved to a temporary office in Watford.

    Their main customers during the war years where Army officers, so may be they were allowed to maintain production through the war.


    After the

  8. Oh my gosh Steve this is amazing!!!! I wish they still had all those inserts available, I would love the birdwatching ones and, well, all of them really.

    And am I reading those right that the prices of the binders are a pound or less??? Oh how times have changed!!!

    (PS if it was cost-effective to print all those different inserts back then, surely they could manage it now that printing is so much cheaper.)

  9. And ps thanks for the info on the monetary system, it was a huge mystery to me but you have explained it very well!

  10. Hi, the special handbooks look interesting, I wonder why Filofax does not more today. Handbook for gardening, movies etc. Moleskine does this now, why not Filofax.
    I would like to have such more special refills

  11. Re: the date, Many documents used to have a printers code - usually on the last or back page. This often gave a clue to date of printing. eg "Printed by Bloggs and Sons 836/5" indicating a printing date of August 1936 and a 5000 print run. However, this was not universal by any means and as it was (presumably) printed in house, might not appear. I'm hoping that Part 2 might reveal something!

    Examples of price conversion:-
    Pocket Books (binders) (page 2) 25p to £1.25
    Indices (Index cards) 7.5p to 17.5p
    Forms 7.5p or a Large selection for 25p
    The most expensive item was the hole punch at £2

    Even some of the big Filofax sales these days don't compare with these prices!

  12. If the date is available, it may be interesting to apply inflation

  13. Steve,
    great post -- and I have two boxes of Lexaf stuff! I was directed to this stuff from my post about my Lexaf finds in the Fountain Pen Network (http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?/topic/211901-lexaf-forms-and-notebooks/page__gopid__2211919#entry2211919). Mine are American, either published in or distributed from New York City, these as late as 1965. I would be pleased to see them find their way to someone who would want them.
    Tim in NYC (to differentiate from the other Tim here, as a New Yorker I can't do the conversion, although my adult kids might be impressed if I did...)

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  15. The number "137" on the first page. 01/1937?
    On Page 7 it says "Austria Hungary" which was dissolved after WW I.

  16. I happen to have two of these in my collection.

    The first was on radio, and was very rich in schematics, and construction details. It was in a cardboard binder, was copyrighted in 1930, but it shows it was reprinted in 1959.

    The second is on construction, is in a leather Lefax binder and it too is copyrighted in 1930. This one just shows that many basic constuction techniques have not changed, but there has been great advance in both materials and tools. This I believe to be the 1st edition because it show no signs on any of the pages of being a reprint.

    It would appear that you could purchase sets on each subject with in the general category in that each specific subject is 4-6 pages long. Both appear to be rather complete, however, not having access to a catalog for that era, I have no way of knowing.

    I gave the one on Radio to my brother-in-law as a Christmas gift along with a Filo personal binder to keep it in. It was a brown made in England that I thought would most nearly duplicate the original, however, it wasn't close to the Lefax binder that the construction one was in. He was thrilled, had never seen anything like it.

  17. What a fantastic post - and great pictures, too! Thank you very much, Steve, I simply love your time travel (without the 'flux capacitor' )!!
    I, too, would love to see some of the ' old' inserts again - such a wide range, from special inserts for girl-scouts to docters and ministers..... Happy times, dinosaurs or not;-)
    Also great information about the change in the monetary system, I never really understood it before.
    Can' t wait for part two!

  18. January 1937 is certainly possible. But "137" could also be the product number of this product list!

    I would suggest there was a typo and the "Austria Hungary" should have had a comma inserted in between.

    I've looked through a 1928 RAC Handbook and can't find any reference to "trunk roads". I think this term first came into use with the 1936 Trunk Roads Act - again suggesting 1937 as a likely date!

  19. Duplex binders - now there's an idea :o)

  20. Fascinating post and loved reading all the comments too. What a find.....

  21. Wow. Just wow!

    What a fantastic archival document and a fantastic post. Thank you so much Steve!

    Tim Ettenheim - I would be very interested in your collection of Lefax inserts. Can you please contact me

    Best Wishes

  22. great looking post! I can't wait to come back on the weekend and give it a good read.

  23. Great post Steve! This is amazing. I would love to find storage boxes like these, but they'd have to be a reasonable price, unlike the "storage binders" Filofax sells today.

  24. This was really cool stuff. I used to teach History so I enjoy reading about stuff from the past. Hope you guys are enjoying the New Year as much as I. Be well. Lorraine

  25. "Lefax - the mechanical memory" I love it.

  26. @Tim - just looked at the photos you'd put on FPN - those Lefax leaves look amazing. Like @David F, I'd love to explore that collection. Looks like a fundamental and undocumented chunk of Filofax history is there in a couple of boxes!

  27. @Tim - you might put a map of the 'Balkans' in your Filofax so you can learn the names of those countries, as we know the names of all the states. Thank you!