|bc||Juvenile pocket libraries,
pocket story libraries including Biggles, W E Johns,
Sexton Blake, BFL, SOL and SBL.
Pocket libraries up until the end of the 1930s were an additional way for publishers to make money from stories which first appeared in weekly STORY PAPERS. This wasn't always the case but the normal practice seemed to involve editing up to four 30,000 word stories into 64 pages, thus cutting out the padding often prevalent in the later story papers of the 1930s. Unfortunately, it wasn't uncommon for a sub-editor to leave out paragraphs or even chapters essential to the plot! Probably the most successful and famous of all pocket libraries was the 'Sexton Blake Library' which was still being published as late as 1970, though in paperback format. All the stories contained in the post-WW2 issues were original.
Above are a selection of English Fleetway pocket picture libraries (actual size 5.25 x 7 inches) from around 1960.
Bill Lofts and Derek Adley believed that the first pocket library published may well have been 'Tiny Library', which appeared in 1846. Unlike the more familiar publications of this century which appeared fortnightly or monthly, 'Tiny Library' was issued weekly. To the Aldine Publishing Company must go the honour of introducing the first 'modern' style of library. Their libraries such as 'Detective Tales' (1889) with stunning full-colour covers were often reprints of American publications.
Amalgamated Press brought out 'The Boys' Friend Library' in 1906 (titled 'The Jack, Sam and Pete Library' for the first couple of issues) and thus began the practice of reprinting tales from weekly story papers. 'The Girls' Friend Library' appeared the next year but was unlike the male version: its stories were aimed at older readers, always containing a love interest.
Below is a list of some notable (make that long-running) pocket libraries. This listing is subjective and does not take into account different 'series' (when numbering reverted back to '1') or slight name changes. If you want a comprehensive listing, search out a copy of OLD BOYS BOOKS: A COMPLETE CATALOGUE, by Bill Lofts and Derek Adley, published privately in 1969, later republished by Howard Baker, London. This lists 226 pocket libraries.
* Nelson Lee #112 was the
first of the St Franks' school stories, the first 111
issues being detective stories.