INFORMATION ABOUT THE “NUMBERING” SYSTEMS OF THE BIGGLES BOOKS

 

 

I say there are 101 Biggles books and you can click here to see why.

 

If there are 101 Biggles books, why is it that the numbering on the spines only goes up to 84? – This being the number on the spine of ‘Biggles Sees Too Much’?

 

The first thing you need to know is that there were nine different original publishers of the Biggles books.

 

Four of the 101 books that Biggles appeared in were actually “Gimlet” books.  Two published by University of London Press and two published by Brockhampton Press.

If we remove those from the numbering system, of the remaining 97 true Biggles books:-

 

John Hamilton published 5 Biggles Books (the first five)

The Boys’ Friend Library published 2 Biggles books (‘Biggles Learns to Fly’ and ‘Biggles in France’)

Oxford University Press published 20 Biggles books

Hodder & Stoughton published 35 Biggles books (and that number includes ‘Comrades in Arms’)

Brockhampton Press published 29 Biggles books

Marks & Spencer published 1 Biggles book (‘Biggles – Air Detective’)

Thames Publishing Company published 1 (original) Biggles book (‘Biggles of the Special Air Police’)

Dean & Son published 2 (original) Biggles books (‘Biggles Flies to Work’ and ‘The Boy Biggles’)

Norman Wright published 2 Biggles books (‘Biggles Does Some Homework’ and ‘Biggles – Air Ace’).  The last two published.

 

W.E. Johns sold his first five Biggles books to John Hamilton outright – and had no royalties.  As a result of that, he lost control of those five titles.

 

THE CAMELS ARE COMING

THE CRUISE OF THE CONDOR

BIGGLES OF THE CAMEL SQUADRON

BIGGLES FLIES AGAIN

THE BLACK PERIL

 

It was then possible for the likes of the Thames Publishing Company and Dean & Son to reprint these books.

The Camels are Coming” was partially reprinted under the title “Biggles – Pioneer Air Fighter” with some stories also being published in Biggles of the Special Air Police

whilstThe Black Peril” became “Biggles and the Black Peril

 

With regard to the two Boys’ Friend Library published titles – they went separate ways

 

BIGGLES IN FRANCE – effectively became “Biggles of 266” published by the Thames Publishing Company and then Dean & Son, whereas

BIGGLES LEARNS TO FLY was “personally revised by Captain W. E. Johns for re-issue” by Brockhampton Press in 1955.

 

When Oxford University Press finished printing reprints of their 20 Biggles books in the mid to late 50’s, they allowed the rights of the 20 Oxford books to revert back to the author, W. E. Johns.

 

 

When the Biggles books were being printed by Hodder & Stoughton and Brockhampton Press, it was decided – in 1955 - to number them.

 

The numbering was applied to all the Hodder & Stoughton books and the Brockhampton Press books but it allowed for and included in the numbering, the 20 Oxford books, and the newly reissued “Biggles Learns to Fly”

 

So, in other words the five JOHN HAMILTON books were missed out of the numbering – as was one of the Boys’ Friend Library books (“Biggles in France”).

They also missed out the Marks & Spencer published Biggles book from 1950 (‘Biggles – Air Detective’) and the Thames Publishing Company published Biggles book from 1953 (‘Biggles of the Special Air Police’).  They also didn’t bother to number “Comrades in Arms” which had been published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1947 and featured one Biggles story, one Gimlet story, one Worrals story and three other stories.

 

This means that NINE earlier Biggles books were missed out of the numbering system.

 

Now, bearing in mind that my list of 101 Biggles books also includes the 4 Gimlet books in which Biggles appears, these four books need to be added to that number nine.

 

KING OF THE COMMANDOS – published in 1943

GIMLET GOES AGAIN – published in 1944

GIMLET MOPS UP – published in 1947

GIMLET BORES IN – published in 1950

 

So we have the numbering system out by 13.

 

 

The last unnumbered first edition was “Biggles Foreign Legionnaire” published in September 1954.

 

The next book published by Hodder and Stoughton was “Biggles in Australia” in March 1955 and this was allocated the number 44.

Brockhampton Press followed in May 1955 with “Biggles’ Chinese Puzzle” which they numbered 43.

One can only assume these numbers were given to them prior to publication and it was expected that Brockhampton would publish before Hodder, but in the event they didn’t.

 

After this, they effectively got the numbering system right with the numbers following on in publication order.

Hodder’s “No Rest for Biggles” was number 45 and Brockhampton’sBiggles Takes Charge” was number 46.

I have noted these books at my number 58 and 59 in the list of 101 books as the numbering is out by 13 for the reasons I have just explained.

 

In September 1963 book number 67 was published – “Biggles and the Plane that Disappeared”.

In the same month, Dean & Son published a collection of Biggles short stories as “Biggles Flies to Work”.  This does not feature in the numbering system.

 

You can see below the numbers allocated for 72 numbered Biggles books up until “Biggles and the Plot that Failed”, published as book number 72 in April 1965.

 

There was then a slip up in numbering.

 

Biggles and the Blue Moon – published in May 1965 – was allocated number 75

Biggles Scores a Bull – published in August 1965 – was allocated number 73

Biggles in the Terai – published in February 1966 – was allocated number 74

Biggles and the Gun Runners – published in September 1966 – was allocated number 76

 

Clearly Blue Moon is out of publication order in its numbering

 

Biggles Sorts it Out – published February 1967 – was allocated number 77

Biggles and the Dark Intruder – was published in April 1967 – this was, uniquely (if you exclude the two Boys’ Friend Library publications), published as a paperback and so was not allocated any number

Biggles and the Penitent Thief – published September 1967 – was allocated number 78

Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea – published in February 1968 – was allocated number 79

The Boy Biggles – published in March 1968 – was not part of the number allocating system as it was published by a different publisher – Dean & Son.

 

This was the last Biggles book published in W. E. Johns lifetime.  He died on Friday 21st June 1968, leaving four complete unpublished manuscripts, whilst working on a fifth

 

Biggles in the Underworld – published in September 1968 – was allocated number 80

Biggles and the Little Green God – published in March 1969 – was allocated number 81

Biggles and the Noble Lord – published in August 1969 – was allocated number 82

Biggles and the Dark Intruder – this being the hardback version of the paperback published back in 1967 – was  then published in February 1970 – and was allocated number 83

Biggles Sees Too Much, effectively the “last” completed Biggles book - was published in July 1970 – and was allocated number 84

 

The uncompleted fifth manuscript saw a limited publication when Biggles Does Some Homework was published.

300 paperbacks were published in February 1998 and then 300 hardbacks were published in June 2007.

 

So to conclude, the numbering system that was out by 13 books when numbering started in 1955 was now out by 15 books on completion of publication of the Biggles books because two

further books had been published by Dean & Son that were not in the numbering system.  Finally, Norman Wright completed publication of all Biggles books and stories with his two books,

Biggles Does Some Homework and the collection of previously uncollected stories, Biggles - Air Ace.

 

This meant that there were now 17 books not included in the numbering system.  84 numbered books plus 17 unnumbered = the 101 books that Biggles featured in.

 

For the sake of clarity the 17 unnumbered books – in publication order are:-

 

THE CAMELS ARE COMING – published in 1932

THE CRUISE OF THE CONDOR – published in 1933

BIGGLES OF THE CAMEL SQUADRON – published in 1934

BIGGLES FLIES AGAIN – published in 1934

THE BLACK PERIL – published in 1935

BIGGLES IN FRANCE – published in 1935

KING OF THE COMMANDOS – published in 1943

GIMLET GOES AGAIN – published in 1944

COMRADES IN ARMS – published in 1947

GIMLET MOPS UP – published in 1947

GIMLET BORES IN – published in 1950

BIGGLES – AIR DETECTIVE – published in 1950

BIGGLES OF THE SPECIAL AIR POLICE – published in 1953

BIGGLES FLIES TO WORK – published in 1963

THE BOY BIGGLES – published in 1968

BIGGLES DOES SOME HOMEWORK – published in 1998

BIGGLES – AIR ACE – published in 1999

 

 

 

 

The back of “Biggles Takes a Hand” contained the most titles referred to by the rear of any Biggles book.  64 titles – numbered 1 to 64.  After this not every title was featured.

 

The back of “Biggles Scores a Bull” went up to title 72 but only lists 50 Biggles titles.

You will note it starts with book number 1, then jumps to 14 then 18 before running through the books.  Books numbered 20, 22, 25, 27, 29, 32 and 45 are all missed out.

This was the last Biggles book to number the books on the rear cover.

 

The back of “Biggles Sees Too Much” – the “last” Biggles book published in 1970

showed only 46 titles. 

 

Why does the back of  Biggles Scores a Bull” choose to list the book titles they do?  Well Brockhampton Press reprinted FOUR of the Oxford Books – and only FOUR under the “Brock Books” label -

and they are the ones allocated numbers 14, 18, 19 and 23.  They are the only four Oxford titles referred to.  You can see the covers of these books and the colour frontispieces – unique to these editions – below.

 

Why were these four Oxford books chosen?

 

The answer would appear to me to be that they were never published as Armada paperback books.  15 of the 20 Oxford books were published as paperbacks by Armada books.

The only other Oxford book not published by Armada was “Biggles Flies West” which was published in the Hampton Library series by Brockhampton Press in 1961.  This series has no internal illustrations at all.

Interestingly, “Spitfire Parade” was published as a paperback by Transworld publishers in their “Scottie Books” series in 1956.

 

I have also included book number 2 – the Brockhampton Press version of Biggles Learns to Fly.  The only other Brockhampton “Brock Book” reprint, so you can see the frontispiece unique to that edition as well.

 

 

 

            WHICH OTHER BIGGLES BOOKS HAD NUMBERED SPINES?

 

As you will have read, nearly every Biggles book from “Biggles’ Chinese Puzzle” onwards was numbered, 43 onwards

When the above books were reprinted they were numbered as

2 – Biggles Learns to Fly

14 – Biggles Secret Agent

18 – Biggles Sees it Through

19 – Spitfire Parade

23 – Biggles in Borneo

There were ten other Biggles books that were later reprinted and had their “designated” numbers printed on the spines of the reprint.

These were all books that had originally been published before the numbering system came into being.

But you can find dust wrappers for the following books with the numbers shown.

 

 

29 - BIGGLES HUNTS BIG GAME

31 - BIGGLES BREAKS THE SILENCE

35 - BIGGLES TAKES THE CASE

36 - BIGGLES FOLLOWS ON

37 - BIGGLES AND THE BLACK RAIDER

38 - BIGGLES IN THE BLUE

39 - BIGGLES IN THE GOBI

40 - BIGGLES CUTS IT FINE

41 - BIGGLES AND THE PIRATE TREASURE

42 - BIGGLES FOREIGN LEGIONAIRE

 

 

 

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