Illustrators: Terry Gilliam, Peter Brookes
Design and Graphics: Kate Hepburn, Lucinda Cowell
Publisher: Eyre Methuen
Publication Date: 1973 (Hardcover), as “The Brand New Monty Python Bok”; Reissued in 1974 in paperback. Combined with “Monty Python’s Big Red Book” and reissued, under the titles “The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Monty Python: Vol. 1 – Monty Python” (1981) and “The Monty Python Gift Boks” (1986).
The Pythons’ second book was even denser than their first, with even more creative use of graphics, fonts and inserts. There was also a higher percentage of new material – including a parody of teen magazines – not inspired or adapted from the TV series.
Safety Instructions; The Wobbles; Biggles; Film Rights; The Llap-Goch Master; Edward Woodward’s Fish Page; The Python Book of Etiquette; Famous First Drafts; Poetry; Puzzle Page; The Bloody Bigots Club; The London Casebook of Detective Rene Descartes; St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wallpaper; 16 Magazine; Masturbation Advertisement; Python Panel; The Adventures of Walter the Wallabee; Calendar: Mr. April; Nixon Photo Contest; Word Record Attempt; The Oxfod Simplified Dictionary; Film Reviews; Rat Recipes; Overland to the World; Colour Page; “African Notebook” by Col. B.B. Wakenham-Plsh MC, OBE; How to …; Norman Henderson’s Diary; Sex-Craft; How to Take Your Appendix Out on the Piccadilly Line; Join the Dots; The Stage Directory; The British Apathy League; Let’s Talk About Bottoms; Page 71; Books From Slater-Methuen; Happy Valley; Ferndean School Report; The Stratton Indicator; The Cheeseshop Word Game; The Official Medallic Commemoration of the History of Mankind; The Anagrams Gape (4); Your Stars; Hamsters: A Warning; Teach Yourself Surgery
The Making of
Kate Hepburn took over art direction duties for the Bok, which was a marvel of design. Terry Gilliam also created original illustrations.
The hardcover version featured a fingerprint-smeared dust jacket, which caused confusion and consternation among both bookbuyers and booksellers, convinced that the fingerprints were real smudges. The jacket nonetheless discreetly hid the front cover of Tits ‘n Bums (A Weekly Look at Church Architecture). Alas, for the paperback version released the following year (called the “Papperbok”), the loss of the dust jacket meant the loss of the very naughty photo beneath.
Naughtiness was of concern to the lawyers for Methuen, as there were real questions whether the publication of Brand New Bok would run afoul of England’s obscenity laws. In the opinion of one lawyer contacted by Methuen, it was doubtful that the Bok would be deemed obscene by a jury (though he held the view that a magistrate acting on his own might declare it so).
However, when the book’s printers (who could also be held liable in an obscenity trial) requested another solicitor’s opinion, the letter they received was troubling. It read in part, “[T]he book was unlikely to be held to be obscene but that, in relation to the possibility of its being read by persons in their early teens the wording in the top right-hand corner of page 65 might provide cause for complaint.” [The offending word: “penis.”] He also warned that certain passages might be declared defamatory [“And remember, ANYONE can be a film producer, all you need is money and a certain vicious ruthlessness”], or that Mr. Norris McWhirter, “the well-known litigant,” might believe a racist letterwriter by the name of Col. Sir Harry McWhirter, M.C.C., referred to him.
The irony of defending Pythonic humor from charges that it was defamatory was laid clear in a letter from another lawyer who wrote, “The article entitled ‘How to become a Segas Employee’ worrys us a little, mostly because we do not know what it is supposed to mean.”
With the printers seeking assurance from the publisher, and with the rest of the Pythons still in North America on tour, John Cleese agreed to excise “penis” (ow!). The book was released in time for the Christmas sales rush.
Rush, indeed: The Bok sold more than 160,000 copies in a few weeks’ time.