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The humble edition that inspired Call the Midwife

Back in 2002, a small publisher in Twickenham called Merton Books published a memoir by a nurse called Jennifer Worth.  This unassuming paperback, with its black and white cover, doesn’t look much but it launched the Call the Midwife phenomenon.

Jennifer Worth’s obscure edition printed by Merton Books

The book described Worth’s experiences as a midwife in east London in the 1950s as the city tried to rebuild after the ravages of World War II. Worth’s account was so good that it was spotted by Weidenfeld & Nicolson who bought the rights and published it for a larger audience. It became a bestseller. Then in 2012 the BBC dramatised the book with a notable cast that included Miranda Hart and today the series has been viewed around the world.

Only one copy of Worth’s original edition is available on AbeBooks – it’s a very scarce book, and this copy has been inscribed by the author.

Offered the sale by Christian White of Modernfirsteditions, the book was displayed at the London Antiquarian Book Fair over the weekend – a rather modest book for such as a grand event but the background story makes up for its humble appearance.

Worth published three further memoirs – Shadows of the Workhouse, Farewell to The East End, and In the Midst of Life. Sadly, she died in 2011 and never saw the BBC adaptation of her book.

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