bc Juvenile pocket libraries, pocket story libraries including Biggles, W E Johns, Sexton Blake, BFL, SOL and SBL.

Sexton Blake #179, 3rd series
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia.
Finalised 5th November, 2010.


Nelson Lee #112, old series *

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.

Biggles in France, issue no.501 dated 7.11.1935

The Cruise of the Condor, issue no.617 dated 7.4.1938

Biggles Flies East, issue no.621 dated 5.5.1938

Biggles Flies Again, issue no.630 dated 7.7.1938

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.

BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY Sept 1906 6.6.1940 1488 Amal.Press
BUFFALO BILL LIBRARY 7.10.1899 1932 941 Aldine
COWBOY PICTURE LIBRARY Apr 1950 Sept 1962 468 Amal.Press
DETECTIVE TALES 1889 1923 376 Aldine
DIXON HAWKE LIBRARY 1919 27.12.1941 576 DCThomson
FOOTBALL AND SPORTS LIBRARY 1921 Oct 1938 556 Amal.Press
GIRLS' FRIEND LIBRARY 1907 May 1940 1306 Amal.Press
MY POCKET LIBRARY 1922 1934 456 Hornsey Journal
O'ER LAND AND SEA 1890 1905 408 Aldine
SCHOOLBOYS' OWN LIBRARY 3.4.1925 6.6.1940 411 Amal.Press
SCHOOLGIRLS' OWN LIBRARY 3.11.1922 5.9.1963 1143 Amal.Press
SCHOOLGIRLS' PICTURE LIBRARY July 1957 6.9.1965 327 Amal.Press
SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY** 20.9.1915 June 1963 1652 Amal.Press
THRILLER PICTURE LIBRARY Nov 1951 May 1963 450 Amal.Press

* Nelson Lee #112 was the first of the St Franks' school stories, the first 111 issues being detective stories.
** This comprises the first 4 series with Mayflower taking over in 1965.