First Broons annual bought by National Library after decade-long hunt

Library curators searched for the elusive 1939 first edition for at least a decade - only for a copy to appear on a bookseller’s website a few months ago.

First Broons annual bought by National Library of Scotland after decade-long hunt NLS

The first ever edition of The Broons annual has been acquired by the National Library of Scotland, completing its collection of the books.

Library curators searched for the elusive 1939 first edition for at least a decade – only for a copy to appear on a bookseller’s website a few months ago.

It had proved hard to track down as initially The Broons books and comics were not collected by libraries because they are distributed via newsagents rather than bookshops.

This was coupled with the fact that earlier editions rarely made their way to collecting institutions such as the National Library of Scotland (NLS) as they were deemed ephemeral and often discarded.

Since the first edition, The Broons annual has appeared every two years, alternating with the Oor Wullie annual.

There was a small gap in 1944 and 1946 due to paper shortages, during which time DC Thomson released Broons jigsaws.

NLS sport, leisure and newspapers curator Ian Scott arranged the purchase of the 1939 edition for the national collections.

He said: “We’re really pleased to have found this first edition – the Broons annuals are some of the most important publications in 20th century Scotland.

“They have had enduring appeal since their inception in 1939, which makes them a publishing phenomenon.

“These iconic characters, aside from subtle changes to their clothing and technology use, still haven’t changed much in the 80-plus years they’ve been landing in Scottish households at Christmastime. Which is a major achievement for any publication.”

He added: ‘The Broons’ still has a large readership because even today, you can buy a copy from major retailers, who wouldn’t stock them unless they were guaranteed to sell a considerable number.

“Their enduring popularity can be put down to the multi-generational appeal. ‘The Broons’ addresses, in quite a gentle way, generational conflict.

“In these modern times where societies and cultures are so fragmented, publications that gently chip away at generational conflict and other societal constructs such as class can bring a level of comfort to readers aged 8 to 80.”

Mr Scott attributes their instant popularity and enduring appeal to many facets, but primarily the Broons’s relatability.

“The tenement flats, the neighbourhood streets and nearby countryside are relatable to readers all over the country. It replicates the lives people have, the places they live in, and the language they speak.

“The Broons is written in Scots, which is unusual for a big mainstream publication.”

The first Broons annual – which is the only known copy in a public collection in Scotland – will be displayed in the Treasures of the National Library of Scotland exhibition in 2024 at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.

Anyone with National Library membership – which is free – can view these comics and annuals at the Library’s reading rooms.

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