Published in 1977 by The Guardian, this story became one of the most elaborate and effective of April Fool’s hoaxes since the famous Spaghetti Tree film broadcast in 1957 by the BBC’s Panorama.
Such was the enthusiasm of those involved, The Islands of San Serriffe grew from a one page article to a seven page feature, with even the advertisers getting on board. The idea was conceived by Guardian employees, and played on a plethora of puns from the printing processes of the day and typographic terminology.
The two main islands of Upper and Lower Caisse formed the shape of a semicolon. The capital city of Bodoni was one of a number of convincing island locations including Gill Sands, Thirty Point and Cap Em.
The effect on the pre-internet public is hard to imagine now. The Guardian switchboard was inundated with requests for more details, and both travel agents and airlines made official complains to The Guardian for the disorder caused by customers refusing to believe the islands did not exist!
This is a summary of a great article published by Doug Wilson which can be found here.