There are many specialist books around which describe the history of the products advertised in the Meccano Magazine. Knowing that a Dinky Toy was issued in 1969, say, means that the advert for it will quite likely appear in 1968-1970, within the Dinky Toys section. So even if it is not specifically listed, there will only be a couple of dozen adverts to review to find the correct one.
The most useful specialist indexes for the Meccano products are contained within the Hornby Companion Series, published by New Cavendish books. Although these books seem recent, to me (I can well remember buying them, as they were issued, from Geoff Wright at MW models), and although some of them have gone through several editions, they are unfortunately all now out of print. Many are still available second hand, and are well worth obtaining. Below the first editions are described - subsequent editions of the main volumes often contained additional colour plates, as well as the associated compendium. Be sure to check before buying. All volumes are approximately A4 size, landscape format.
1. Hornby Companion Series
These are paperback volumes, and are the most useful as indexes. They list all of the models or parts, with the date of introduction and withdrawal.
Vol.3a - Hornby Dublo. Alan F Ellis. 136pp
Vol.4a - Dinky Toys. Patrick Trench. 72pp
Vol.5a - Hornby Gauge 0. Chris & Julie Graebe. 128 pp
Vol.6a - Meccano System. Jim Gamble. 96pp
Main Volumes - Essential
Two volumes rate as essential:
Vol.6 - The Meccano System and the Special Purpose Construction Sets. 432pp - Bert Love with Jim Gamble
This is a complete history of the formation of Meccano Ltd, and of the rise (and fall) of the company. Although the emphasis is on Meccano, there is also a complete history of the Meccano Magazine, and all the minor products (ie except for Hornby 0 and Dublo trains, and Dinky Toys) are also covered.
Vol 6a is included in this volume, so need not be purchased separately. An additional index to this volume - A Key to Meccano History by John Westwood (8pp) - is available from MW Mail Order.
Vol.8 - The Hornby Companion. 628pp - Roger Beardsley
The first part of the book reproduces many pages from the Meccano Manuals, and has an excellent commentary on them. It includes illustrations of all the SMLs, with comments, as well as reproductions of many earlier leaflets - including the Meccano Charging Board.
Following this are reproductions of much advertising material, again with a commentary. These include many reproductions of slides which were used to advertise Meccano products in cinemas.
Finally, several Meccano Ltd catalogues are reproduced, including three complete Hornby Books of Trains, and a Dinky Toys catalogue.
Most of this material is currently unavailable elsewhere (except for the originals). Even when it becomes available, the book is worth having for the commentaries alone.
Three specialist volumes:
Vol.3 - Hornby Dublo Trains 1938-1964. 416pp - Michael Foster
Includes an early version of the compendium - which was later released in a more comprehensive version as Vol 3A
Vol.4 - Dinky Toys and Modelled Miniatures. 312 pp. - Mike & Sue Richardson
Includes reproductions of some Dinky Toys catalogues, and also photographs of the inside of the Meccano factory.
Vol.5 - Hornby 0 System. 336pp - Chris & Julie Graebe
Contains illustrations of catalogue covers and related publications. Also contains (pp240-245) photos of many generic Meccano Ltd parts - graphite grease, keys transformers etc, and the Meccano parts for us e with railways (Signal Arm, Collector Shoe, Spring Buffer etc).
Except as noted, there is little of interest for the general collector, but these volumes are essential for the specialist.
Two useful volumes:
Vol.1 - The Products of Binns Road. 220pp - Peter Randall
This volume contains a general history of Meccano Ltd, but Vol 6 is generally far more useful.
Contains reproductions of: Book of Hornby Trains and Meccano Products , Hornby Book of Trains 1938-9 etc.
Vol.2 - Meccano Super Models. 336pp - Geoff Wright
This book contains a good introductory article and the complete Meccano Book of Engineering.
It also contains reproductions of all of the supermodel leaflets.
Vol 8 covers much of the introductory material (albeit by a different author) and the SMLs are now available as scans, so the value of this volume is not as great now as when it was first published.
Two volumes of little interest:
Vol.7 - Meccano Magazine 1916-1981. 484pp.
History of Meccano Magazine by Bert Love. Extracted (without illustrations) from Vol 6.
Index by Joseph Manduca. Never particularly useful, it is now entirely superseded by this index.
Covers of the MM. Nice to have as a coffee table book, but otherwise all available as scans.
Vol.7a - Meccano Magazine Anthology. 1072pp. - Edited by Allen Levy.
Contains a selection of pages from the MMs from 11/23 to 5/63 and the complete year 1936, but without covers or adverts.
The year 1939 was omitted, because a separate volume published by Michael Bentley, and covering Jan-June 1939 (including covers and adverts) was already available. This was intended to be the first volume in a series, but no further volumes were ever produced.
Now these reproductions are of little interest, because all of the material is reproduced in this index.
2. Meccanoman's Club Publications
The club was created by G Maurice Morris to provide Meccano enthusiasts with information about Meccano history, and also to make photocopies of material available, where originals were unavailable. Eventually it produced a number of its own publications, including 41 issues of the Meccanoman's Journal, and 56 supermodel leaflets (prefixed by GMM, to distinguish them from the official products). The club continues today, producing further supermodels. However some of the original club publications prove as useful now as when they were originally produced. These can all be purchased from MW Mail Order.
Meccanoman's Guide. 1964, with 4 supplements (1964-1973).
All need to be purchased, as the supplements not only contain additional material, but also contain updates for what has gone before. Useful sections are:
1: Date of MM or manual in which each part was announced
3: Index to the MM (Meccano articles only)
6: Contents to MM (Meccano articles only)
The other sections cover the Meccano manuals, and provide no indexing to the Meccano Magazine
Development of the Meccano System.1972, with supplement in 1975.
The main volume is the most useful.
This describes all of the Meccano parts, with all known variations. It includes references made to these parts in the Meccano Magazine, as well as manuals and price lists.