The Boys’ Friend Library

boys friend library next to a commando

Pocket Libraries, despite the claims of War Picture Library being “the first” on the back of “Unleash Hell”, have been around since the early 20th century. Of course, the first comic strip ones in the “Commando” style most likely appeared post-war in the 1950’s, the earlier ones where text stories. These usually came in the form of reprinted (and edited or shortened) serials from the weekly papers.

boysgdfd who reads these anyway?

By far the most common size for these books was 64 interior pages, on black and white newsprint with colour covers and features/adverts on the inside covers. This format is continued today in Commando. However other libraries where reduced in pages during times of war and shortages. Others came in larger sizes – i beleive some “Holiday Special” editions of the Fleetway libraries such as Air Ace ran to 225 pages! (but those may have been in another format)

More pocket libraries than you might think survive today. But they can still be counted on one hand – Commando, The People’s Friend library**, My Weekly library, Fun-size Beano and Fun-size Dandy. Crossword/wordsearch/sudoku books of roughly the same size exist also.
This example is a Boys’ Friend library, which ran from 1906 to 1925*, reprinting either original stories or serials from the weekly Boys’ Friend. The book is in remarkable condition for it’s age (due to some ebay wrangling, a US collector was supposed to get ‘my’ good one. But never complained about the knackered example that was meant for me, so the seller sent me the good one). Also despite a general disintrest in / ignorance of storypapers in this day and age issues of the BFL which show up on Ebay always attract bids, often very quickly too. I’d hardly say there was a price war going on though, they show up for 99p – £2.00 and get bids. And as i’m not especially interested i normally let the ones with bids already on them “escape”. (If i ever see “The Black Squadron” i’ll chase it though).


I havent actually read the issue in question yet, but it appears to be about some film-makers going into the jungle and finding some lost civilisation and “more than they bargained for”. The book is un-dated, but the cover illustration has a 1920 date, it also doesn’t say if the story is a reprint of a serial or one written for the library

One of the most desirable issues of the Boys’ Friend Library must surely be that containing “Sexton Blake in the Congo”, an important story in the history of that character which originally ran over several issues of the weekly Boys’ Friend in 1908.


**- Incedentally The People’s Friend must surely be the last surviving storypaper which has remained in regular publication right since Victorian times. Though today of course it is “the best-selling (only) story magazine” and also contains articles on holidays, cooking and many ads for ‘silver’ cruises and life insurance. I suppose i had better cobble up an entry before all of it’s readership pass away.