Biggles: Generations

I can’t begin to tell you the pleasure I am getting from reading an old children’s book from 1933.  It is as thick as a house brick; most of the pages are loose; both the frontispiece and dustjacket are missing, having been replaced with modern facsimiles; the binding is decidedly spongy; and there are old Sellotape repairs to the spine.  But it is still a joy to read.  It is a first edition of the first full-length Biggles adventure: The Cruise of the Condor.

Part of the pleasure of reading this particular edition is knowing that my dad might possibly have read the self-same copy when it was first published, over eighty years previously.  As a child, my dad would sometimes receive a new Biggles book as a Christmas present, and it was an event eagerly anticipated, particularly when the hardback editions were not cheap: the original price of The Cruise of the Condor was 3s6d and some of the Oxford editions weighed in even pricier at 4s.

Thirty plus years later, when I was buying the same titles as a child, the editions I purchased were Armada and Knight paperbacks, invariably priced at 17½ pence.  It was a significant dent to my pocket money allowance.  I still recall the disappointment upon stumbling across an old Biggles edition that was not available in paperback––Biggles in the Gobi––in a secondhand bookshop in Arundel, only to discover that it was priced at £2.  Quelle horreur!  It was a sum beyond a small boy’s imagination.

It is rare for a book––or a series of books––to transcend generations; for all the millions of titles published each year only a handful will remain in print––and continue to be read, or collected––beyond the span of their publisher’s advertising budget.

And now there is my son.  The next generation.  Is he a fan of Biggles too?  Is he bugger.  It is all PS5 and Slowthai.

© Bradley Dunbar

Bradley Dunbar is the end of a Biggles line.

You may also like to read the blog articles Giant Crabs and Ugly Ducklings and Biggles and the Giant Squid.

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