Saturday, April 23, 2011












Top Left: Front and back covers of 1971 edition.  Top Right: Front and back covers of 1972 edition.   Bottom: Front and back covers of 1974 edition, published in conjunction with Wildwood House. It would be interesting to know who all of the people on the back cover are.

Knock on the door Sunday afternoon and it was Nick at the door with a carrier bag containing three copies of Alternative London,  which once belonged to his brother.

One of the bibles of the underground culture in the 1970s, Alternative London was originated and produced by the remarkable Nicholas Saunders (bottom left in the last picture).

See PREVIOUS POST: ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: Nicholas Saunders, an obituary by Flora Maxwell Stuart in The Independent

In Memoriam/Nicholas Saunders (1938-1998) by Nicholas Albery [The Guardian/5th Feb 1998]

Nicholas Albery (1948-2001) was his friend and collaborator. See PREVIOUS POST: ALTERNATIVE SOCIETY 1970s: FEEDBACK to access a range of links that connect these two men. Both died in car accidents.

These editions  and others in more detail:




First edition: published 1 December 1970

Alternative London  was featured as one of a series of articles on Book Covers in the Financial Times. The article was by Edwin Heathcote (pub 13th Dec 2010).  He claims the image on the left is the cover of the first edition. The image on the right, listed in Flickr as being the same edition, is the back cover.

ALTERNATIVE LONDON3903Second edition: Published 1 November 1971

The first page reads: This book is packed with information on how to get the most out of London for the least money….It tells you how to survive –then thrive…It doesn’t push a way of life but gives access to ways of expressing your individuality in a sincere way.’

A few pages later it records that 148 people sent in suggestions and they were all sent a free copy. Saunders says: ‘This book is not written from theory, nor is it an outside observer’s view. The law, organisations and activities are described the way we experience them – not how they should be or would like to be.’

ALTERNATIVE LONDON901Third edition: Published 12 May 1972

This has Alternative London on smaller type, the main title being ‘Survival Guide for Strangers’. In this edition, Nicholas Saunders has Georgie Downes credited as his Assistant. He defines the work as follows:

The book is for young people coming to London who want to take part in the new culture rather than to be the observers of tourist attractions. Its by the young people who produce Alternative London – so its not theoretical but a practical guide to avoiding the pitfalls and how tto get out of them. We haven’t tried to be comprehensive, but have selected a few of the best and cheapest things – a lot are free. Nor have we glamorised London. This is as you find it.’

ALTERNATIVE LONDON5905Fourth edition: Published 1 Feb 1974

This edition was put together by a team who form the bottom row in the picture. They are, from right to left:

Nicholas Saunders (writer & editor); Jenny Potter (research and checking), Roger Hall (layout and paste-up), Nicholas Lumsden (IBM typesetting), Tammy Cole (diagrammatic illustrations); Malcolm Carter (title pages and cover).

This edition also gives the sales (or print-runs) of the various editions: First Edition/50,000 copies; Second Edition/52,300 copies; Third edition/ 50,000 copies; Fourth Edition/38,000 copies.

ALTERNATIVE LONDON7908 5th Edition: Published by Wildwood House on 25th August 1977.

The cover has an unusual credit: ‘Cover design by Marilyn, stitched by Kaye.’This edition is essentially the same as the previous one but with an Appendix which contains a substantial number of updates and changes, work carried out by Steve Barron. [Thanks to Dave for ferreting out his old copy]

 This is the cover of the 1982 edition from Amazon. It  is listed as the 6th Edition, published by Otherwise Press. The credits read Nicholas Saunders (author), Georganne Downes (Editor), Kathy Holme (Editor), Max Handley (Editor)

There is not a great deal on the Internet about Alternative London. Here are a couple:

Alternative London is one of the best books of all time on

Wikipedia entry on Saunders

imageSaunders also travelled the country to produce Alternative England and Wales, a large-format volume of 368 pp, which he published himself in Hardcover on 7th July 1975. A paperback version appeared in September that year.

He also authored (and self-published) E for Ecstasy with Liz Heron, illustrated by Ginny Wade (April 1993), Ecstasy and the Dance Culture ( Sept 1995), Ecstasy: Dance, Trance and Transformation, with Rick Doblin (1996) and Ecstasy Reconsidered (April 1997)

E for Ecstasy

Ecstasy Reconsidered



nicola lane said...

Thanks for posting the Alternative London archive.I created the cover for the 6th edition and I actually got paid, which was very unusual in those days!I have 2 copies left, plus some tearsheets. Great blog!
Nicola Lane

Marc Ozin said...

The Independent has a obituary for Saunders who sadly passed away in 1998:

andrzej maria borkowski said...

Thank you for the Archive. I also contributed to the 6th edition - making large drawings between chapters where I, being in love, was hiding small references to me and my wife Gabriela. I was paid for this work too, for which I was grateful was I hardly had any money coming from Poland only for a summer with my wife and 10 months old daughter Alicja. Nicolas mentioned us on the last page of the book as we had returned to Poland and were unable to came back for launching of the book due to the political situation and declaration of Marshal Law in Poland. But eventually we had returned invited to work in British theater and I got a copy of the book from Nicolas personally, It is so sad that he is no longer with us. Greetings to all friends from those days of International Times and alternative culture -it was privilege to meet you all ( I do remember helping to carry huge painted board with Nicola Lane's graffiti drawing in order to photograph it on the street for the cover of the book)