BAYKO - Manual Labour - Part 5
The MECCANO Era

This article is the third part of a three part article...
 
Front cover of the first MECCANO era manual
Though the MECCANO era was a brief and – in many ways – disappointing period for BAYKO, it started off quite optimistically. The print run of the first issue of the 1960 Instructions in August was a mind-boggling 250,000 copies – yes, that’s right, a quarter of a million! Whatever else we think about MECCANO – and I’ve often been a stern critic – you can't fault the commitment implied by the size of that order. What's more, with 100,000 copies of the 2nd issue being printed only six months later, MECCANO must have been successful in shifting the first batch!
 
Front cover of the second MECCANO era manual
There were only three small changes between the 1st and 2nd issues. First, the front cover was modified by a change in the way the drawings of the young boy and girl faced, moving from perhaps 30° off full frontal to 30° away from, side on. Presumably, there was a marketing-based justification for this, but I don’t see it personally. Second – and more trivially – the MECCANO reference number for the instructions ("23924") was added to the back cover. The third change has something of déjà vu about it. In the peak period, Plimpton belatedly began to advise using a rubber band to control an unsupported 2-brick rod above the open porch of the "Modern Detached House" model. Not to be outdone, MECCANO now did exactly the same for their version on page 16!
You might have expected the launch of Outfit 15 in mid-1962 to be acknowledged in the 3rd issue of the Instructions produced in April that year, but you'd be wrong. The only change was to one of the paragraphs in "How To Build A BAYKO Model" on page 3, which apparently needed clarification!
Page 3 of the third MECCANO era manual
That's almost it for this manual, though there was an unchanged 4th and final issue in March 1964. The comparatively modest print run of 40,000 copies is still surprisingly substantial when you consider BAYKO's death throes had already begun.
Model B15.4 from the MECCANO era  Set 15 leaflets
The 1962 Special Model Leaflets released with Outfits 14C and 15 in August are actually print-coded four months earlier. In concept, they are reminiscent of the plan cards included with the 'New Series' sets of 1939. The Outfit 15 models are attractive and innovative – the MECCANO Model Room did a good job! The sheets are double-sided (having a model on each) and carry reference numbers "23751" to "23756". If I'm reading the code correctly, 30,000 were printed.
The 1962 New Parts and Set Contents Sheet was given the reference number "72716", and obviously had uses beyond the outfits themselves, as the longer print run of 40,000 copies indicates.
One unusual trait of Mr. MECCANO is that he appears to have re-set the text for some or all of each new issue, giving rise to small differences in appearance (though no typos that I've been able to find).
New parts diagrams from the MECCANO era  Set 15 leaflets
Unfortunately, Mr. MECCANO doesn't give away much information on who printed his manuals and sheets, other than to say that they were "Printed in England". However, I understand that most – if not all – of such printing was done in-house. Whatever the truth, I take my hat off to Mr. MECCANO: the print quality of them all is excellent – in quite a different league to Plimpton's last decade.
Short, but sweet, and it's nice to be able to end on a high note.
*****
By way of a summary, I'd like to make some personal observations on the full range of BAYKO manuals. The earliest Plimpton-era manuals were of extremely high quality, but after the expediencies of the early war years and the later deterioration in C.B. Plimpton's health, the bean counters who took over let the standard of the post-war manuals slip a long way, particularly during the 1950s. However, the simple statistic – 56 issues in 30 years – suggests a dynamism which, when coupled with an innovative approach in terms of content, very much helped drive the business and the popularity of BAYKO.
Finally, I'd like to express my thanks to all who helped towards the completion of the manuals section of my website, and – in doing so – to this series of articles.
The end (Or is it?)
 
That last comment was added by the editor, Gary Birch. It turned out to be rather prescient...
 
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