x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Russell Ash, publisher of delightfully eccentric trivial facts

He wrote more than 100 works of non-fiction, including Whitaker's World of Facts and The Top Ten of Everything

Britain prides itself on its eccentrics and has an appreciation for the absurd. Russell Ash tapped into this fascination with dozens of books - in reality, collections of lists - that recorded and celebrated the odd and outlandish. Born in Surrey but raised in Bedford, he came from a long line of gold and silversmiths. He first worked briefly for an insurance company, then as a researcher for Reader's Digest, before establishing his own publishing firm. When that foundered, he worked for the publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson, then Pavilion Books. His first book, Highwaymen, appeared in 1967. He would write more than 100 works of non-fiction. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he wrote a dozen biographies and appreciations of artists from the Victorians and the Impressionists to Van Gogh and Millais. In the second half of the 1990s he wrote a number of illustrated children's books.

He was best known for his Top Ten series - sport, music, film, for men, Britain. From 2005, he also produced a series, Whitaker's World of Facts, which included a list of phobias: papyrophobia, a fear of paper; pogonophobia, a fear of beards; linonophobia, a fear of string; and clinophobia, a fear of going to bed. From 1989 until his death, he wrote The Top Ten of Everything, probably the best-selling of all his works. Known as "the human Google", his research was prodigious and his enthusiasm unbounded. In his collection of Extraordinary but True Names, he delighted in listing: Ah Choo, Eva Ready, Ben Dover, Eva Faithfull, Tim Burr and Barb Dwyer.

Born on June 18, 1946, he married twice and is survived by his second wife, a daughter from his first marriage and two sons from his second. He died on June 21. * The National