World Toilet Day

Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth is an absorbing look at how we moved from the early days of leaf-wiping, to the modern age of toilet paper, and beyond, into the age of the Washlet. With World Toilet Day highlighting the importance of access to sanitation worldwide, we thought we’d share four facts about the past, present(ish) and future of toilet paper.

  • Toilet paper originated in China. Like the invention of paper in around 100 CE, though it is unclear when the transition was made from writing to wiping material.
  • The neck of a live goose is the finest means of wiping one’s behind. At least according to the works of Rabelais, a French priest and scholar in the 1500s. He created the character of Gargantua, who amused the masses in tales of exploration in bum-wiping. Which concluded – naturally – that the neck of a live goose was the best thing you could use.
  • In 2010 a French photography prize was awarded to a photo of a man using the tricolor to wipe with. It caused a national outrage but, as far as we know, no-one was prosecuted.
  • The future is the Washlet. Because who doesn’t want to be rinsed clean with some warm water and then dried with a blast of air. Now all the rage in Japan, but coming soon to a bathroom near you.

(Facts taken from Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth)

But this World Toilet Day, a UN-recognised event observed annually on 19th November, stop and think. We don’t need Washlets. We don’t need the necks of live geese. Just a clean, safe toilet.

Can you imagine not having a toilet? 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to a clean and safe toilet. Having access to safe, clean and private toilet facilities is proven to be a contributing factor in keeping girls in school, and increasing the chances of girls completing their education. Access to proper sanitation has been declared a human right for all, and yet 2.5 billion people still don’t have that. Visit the World Toilet Day website for more information.

Bum Fodder Richard Smyth


Happy First Birthday: Take Home a Souvenir

That’s right! Exactly a year ago today Souvenir Press published its very first blog post. And look how we’ve grown since then. Join us in a trip down memory lane as we count down the five most popular blog posts of the last year – were there any you missed?

What would you like to see more of in the coming year on the Souvenir Press blog? Let us know in the comments below.

5) Chinese New Year: The Year of the Snake

Featuring predictions from the definitive book on Chinese astrology, THE HANDBOOK OF CHINESE HOROSCOPES, seventh edition, by Theodora Lau and Laura Lau. The book contains predictions that will take you right through to 2014. Find out what the rest of the Year of the Snake has in store for you. (Read more…)

4) Happy Birthday to Martin Luther King, Jr.

From January this year, celebrating what would have been the 84th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, leader of the Black Civil Rights movement in America. His book STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM, published as part of the Independent Voices series by Souvenir Press, was described by King as  “the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.” (Read more…)

3) Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper

Did you miss the official publication day for BUM FODDER by Richard Smyth? Find out  how loo roll was used in espionage, how it relates to corn on the cob, and what mussels have got to do with it. Richard Smyth answers the questions you never thought to ask about the product we can’t live without. (Read more…)

=1) Telling Tales in Latin: A Review

Stephen Addis, a retired Classics teacher with 36 years’ experience of teaching Classics in state and independent schools, reviews TELLING TALES IN LATIN by Lorna Robinson.
“A new and exciting Latin course… It is one of the best Latin course books currently available and will undoubtedly prove to be a great success, particularly with younger children.” (Read more…)

=1) The Book by Alan Watts

Appearing on Desert Island Discs last November, John Lloyd (writer and television producer, best known for his work on Blackadder and QI) chose THE BOOK: ON THE TABOO AGAINST KNOWING WHO YOU ARE by Alan Watts as the book he would take with him to a desert island. He described it as: “The best book I’ve ever read on the nature of what actually is, what the world is about.” (Read more…)

Are you ready to discover our authors?

Things have been a little quiet here on the Souvenir Press blog over the last couple of weeks – sorry about that. I’ve been busy working away behind the scenes of the Souvenir  website, and have been lining up some fantastic blog posts for you guys over the coming weeks/months.

We’re going to be bringing back our Author Corner feature, and have currently got several of our authors scribbling away to bring you an exclusive view into their lives. Whether they’re sharing their inspiration, telling the story of how their book came to be, or sharing tips and advice, you won’t want to miss it!

Our previous Author Corner posts featured Jessica Thom writing about her book Welcome to Biscuit Land, Richard Smyth on Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper, and Arthur Plotnik, author of Better than Great with a handy guide to terms of endearment for your loved one, suitable for Valentines Day and the rest of the year.

Away from the blog, we’ve had some exciting post this week: finished copies of three of our new Spring titles: Code Name Caesar by Jerome Preisler and Kenneth Sewell, Telling Tales in Latin by Dr Lorna Robinson (both published later this month), and Where the Ghosts Walk by Peter Underwood, published early next month. What do you think?

Spring books 2013new spring books 2013

I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and we’ll be back in the Souvenir Press office on Tuesday after the Bank Holiday. As always, if you’ve got any queries (Where can I buy these books? Can I get your books on my new Nook? Where’s the British Museum in relation to your office?) feel free to leave us a comment below, or you can drop me an email.


Another week, another set of wonderful reviews!

It’s been a busy week here in the Souvenir Press office. Monday-Wednesday was the London Book Fair, with meetings and events continuing throughout the week. But finally, on Friday afternoon, I’ve found a moment to bring you the round-up of all the wonderful reviews that have come in this week.

How Puzzles Improve Your Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim

“[The] puzzles were beautifully designed and a nice progression to help keep your thought processes working… It made me think and play in ways I had not done before and actually explained what my brain was doing whilst attempting these puzzles.” – Kevin on the PuzzleMad blog

“A very readable look at thinking and an excellent selection of puzzles to enhance brain function.” – The Book Bag

Bum Fodder by Richard Smyth

“Quite apart from the sheer entertainment provided by the book, I can say that I have actually learnt a considerable amount… The thinking person’s toilet library should now begin with three core acquisitions: Sale, Nohain/Caradec, and now Smyth.” – Jonathan Pinnock

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

“The latest edition includes updated research, better quality reproductions of the Old Master paintings and also work by recent students who followed the course. Their drawings certainly make a compelling case for how successful the approach is.” – Artists & Illustrators magazine, May 2013

Leisure Painter magazine, May 2013, featured the book as part of their article ‘How do I draw that?’

If you’re interested in finding out more about any of our titles at Souvenir Press, feel free to email me asking for a copy of our latest catalogue.

Author’s Corner: Richard Smyth on Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper

Richard Smyth is the author of one of 2012’s most unusual and interesting titles: Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper. Described by Robin Ince on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends as “the ultimate loo book”, this extraordinary title answers all the questions you never thought to ask about the product we can’t live without. But where on earth did Richard Smyth uncover all of his fascinating nuggets of information?

Imagine you’re writing a book on the long, colourful and thoroughly absorbing history of toilet paper. You’ve covered all the usual bases: the origins of paper in mediaeval China; the invention of modern ‘medicated paper’ in 1857 by the New York quack Joseph Gayetty; the all singing, all dancing space-age super-bidets now edging out loo-roll in Japan…

Now you’re after the weird stuff, the quirky details, the off-beat nuggets of fascinating fact that shed new light on the way the world wipes. Where do you look?

You’d think that Captain John G. Bourke’s 1891 classic Scatalogic Rites Of All Nations would be the perfect starting place. It is, after all, staggeringly, alarmingly, frighteningly comprehensive. It has a chapter on ‘The Ordure Of The Grand Lama Of Tibet’.  It has a chapter on ‘Tolls Of Flatulence Exacted Of Prostitutes In France’. It has a chapter – my personal favourite – on ‘The Use Of Bladders In Making Excrement Sausages’.

But on toilet paper, it is strangely silent.

Other obscure works throw up the odd gem: Samuel Rolleston’s Philosophical Dialogue Concerning Decency (1751), for instance, tells of an old Dutch woman, who, seated beside a gentleman in a communal privy, offers him her mussel shell for wiping (or, rather, scraping) once she has finished with it.

But the thing is, the really good stuff isn’t hidden away in mouldering, un-studied monograms by forgotten fetishists and little-read weirdos. It’s in the Classics library. It’s in the books you’re always told you ought to read but don’t.

There was a time when the highbrow and the infantile mingled happily. Just leaf through a book of eighteenth-century poetry and you’ll find plenty of instances of public intellectuals, serious writers, talking of, among a dazzling variety of other things, toilets: in George Farewell’s ‘Privy Love For My Landlady’, for example, the poet thanks his loathesome landlady for curing him of a bout of constipation (‘When lo! who should pop by but Mother Masters,/At whose bewitching look soon stubborn arse stirs’).

Thus, some of the most illuminating bum-wiping material comes from our most highly-regarded writers and thinkers. From the 16th century, cleric and scholar François Rabelais (‘I have, by long and curious experience, found out a means to wipe my bum, the most lordly, the most excellent, and the most convenient that was ever seen’) – from the 17th, poet Robert Herrick (who placed a curse on any reader who dared to wipe his bum with pages from Herrick’s book: ‘May every ill that bites, or smarts,/Perplex him in his hinder parts’) – from the 18th, Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Paul’s (‘We may, while they strain their throats,/Wipe our arses with their votes’).

Any writer who thus mentions the unmentionable does us a favour by reminding us that the seemingly unsavoury parts of life are still, well, parts of life. Toilet paper – so often a taboo, and yet so utterly ubiquitous – is a prime example. My book, Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History Of Toilet Paper, is my attempt to tell the epic tale of humanity’s love-hate relationship with its torcheculs, xylospongions and lotion-infused three-ply – but who are today’s Rabelaises, Swifts and Herricks? Which of our literary writers venture into this enjoyably daring territory nowadays?

Salman Rushdie, in Midnight’s Children, eloquently expresses the distaste of the hygienic Indian for the British way of wiping (‘No water near the pot… it’s true, My God, they wipe their bottoms with paper only!’) – Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine goes into rewarding detail regarding the fine points of loo-roll (‘Perforation! Shout it out!’) – and Martin Amis, in, say, Money, shows himself to be an heir to Rabelais in terms of the explicit extravagance of his bathroomery (‘I made a highly complicated, demanding, almost experimentalist visit to the bathroom…’).

There must be more: more laureates of the loo-roll, bards of the bum-fodder. Who have I missed?

Bum Fodder Richard SmythBum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper by Richard Smyth is published by Souvenir Press. It is available in hardback and as an e-book. Out now.

This Week in Review(s)

This week has seen a flurry of reviews come in for a selection of Souvenir titles. Below you will find extracts of four great reviews, and the links to the full versions, for four very different titles – as if you needed reminding of the fantastic eclectic mix of titles available from us at Souvenir Press.

Better than Great – Arthur Plotnik

“Better Than Great is a bravura, ingeniously inventive, roaringly intelligent thesaurus of praise and acclaim… Where has this paean-worthy, distressingly excellent book, which certainly goes the whole hog, been all my life?” – YA Yeah Yeah blog

Bum Fodder – Richard Smyth

“Written with a real sense of fun, this is a book to delight anyone with a sense of humour, an inquiring mind and a reasonably strong stomach…  it has certainly been a smash hit in our house, where it has been perused by readers aged  from  49 to 14.” – The Garden Window blog

Through A Dog’s Eyes – Jennifer Arnold

Five out of five stars. “This is an enlightening read, and after finishing this book, I felt I looked at my dog in a new way and I have definitely learned a lot about dog behaviour… This book is a fascinating, informative and worthwhile read for any dog owner.” – The Little Reader Library (on GoodReads, soon to appear on her blog)

Why Does My Rabbit – Anne McBride

“I would recommend every rabbit owner have a read of this book!” – The Rabbit House

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Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper

Today is the official publication day for BUM FODDER: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper by Richard Smyth.

Early reviews suggest this will be a big seller, especially in the run up to Christmas. Best of British magazine features Bum Fodder in their current issue (November 2012), and Saga magazine features a fascinating column of facts about toilet paper taken from Smyth’s book. 

“It has to be the ultimate accessory for the loo: Richard Smyth’s fascinating time about toilet paper that flushes out reams of intriguing facts.” – ‘Saga’ magazine, November 2012.

Available now as an e-book and in hardback, this is a fascinating insight into something that we use every day, but that is rarely discussed. How was loo roll used in espionage? How does it relate to corn on the cob? And what have mussels got to do with it?  Richard Smyth answers the questions you never thought to ask about the product we can’t live without.