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Our History

by Chris Meeten

In these early years of the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine a world without mechanised transport. In little more than one hundred years the motor vehicle has become ubiquitous. Its development has enabled widespread travel for commerce and for tourism and, in consequence, 24-hour deliveries of products and daily journeys of several hundred miles are commonplace.

Michelin, founded in France in 1889, was at the forefront of the nascent motoring industry. André Michelin, who had worked as a cartographer in his early career, saw the potential to encourage motoring by devising guidebooks and maps specifically for tourists: more driving would inevitably lead to greater tyre use and hence, sales. The company’s first Guide, now known famously as the Red Guide, was launched in France in 1900 and was destined to set the standard for annual guides for most of Western Europe over the next twenty years. The first British Guide, exceptionally with a blue cover, was published in 1911 and has a wealth of information useful to motorists such as places to stay, sites to visit, garages and Michelin tyre stockists. There are even 77 establishments listed where aeroplane repairs can be effected!

The British Guide was produced in eleven editions from 1911 until 1931 and then annually from its relaunch in 1974.

To complement the Guides, Michelin produced motoring maps. Although Britain was well-placed with its comprehensive history of map-making, France was less so where motoring maps were concerned. Michelin’s first maps, France on a scale of 1:200,000, appeared in 1910 and the style and format was replicated in Britain in 1914. As you might expect, Bibendum, the friendly Michelin Man, figures prominently throughout the maps, as well as the Guides.

In 1990, Michelin saw I-Spy books as a new opportunity to introduce Bibendum, the Michelin Man, and the world of Michelin to children and, hence, to possible tyre buyers of the future. I-Spy books were founded in 1948 and by 1953 sales had reached 2,000,000 so the reinvigoration of the brand by Michelin almost forty years later gave a welcome boost to the much-loved British books. The new range was launched on 28 February 1991.


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