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News > OP updates > The Yellow Book - a pocket history

The Yellow Book - a pocket history

18 Mar 2022
Written by John Sadden
OP updates
Archive examples of Yellow Books
Archive examples of Yellow Books

The oldest Yellow Book in the archive dates from the Spring term of 1957 and is, in fact, a cheerless buff. As many old Old Portmuthians will remember, most of its pages were devoted to class lists with the calendar of the term’s events occupying just a few pages. For pupils whose achievements somehow eluded the notice of the Portmuthian it was possibly the first time they will have ever seen their name in print. Handily pocket-sized, it had a timetable on the inside of the back cover. There was no longer any excuse for any pupil to be anywhere other than where he should be.

In the 1970s the buff began to change with a hint, then another hint, of yellow until, in 1974, the first truly yellow Yellow Book appeared, albeit in a subdued mellow hue. The dawn of the 1990s brought an over-indulgent, saturated yellowness that was destined to burn out, which it duly did in 1999.

The new millennium brought the white Yellow Book, appealing, perhaps, to a cool, post-modern generation of pupil comfortable with irony. To avoid confusion, the words “Yellow Book” appeared in black on the white cover. One can only speculate, adding irony to irony, as to whether, in a future post post-modern world, archive copies of the white Yellow Book will yellow with age.

In 2013, there was a realization that the white Yellow Book, while reflecting a public school tradition of quirkiness, was not fit for purpose. It was not so much that it didn’t do what it said on the tin, more that the tin wasn’t what it said on the tin. And so a happy Solomonic compromise was reached. The front cover was divided equally, diagonally, into both white and yellow.

The last hard-copy white and yellow Yellow Book appeared in Spring 2020, after which it became a casualty of Covid and has been published in pupil-friendly digital format ever since.  

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