AN INTERESTING LETTER FROM CAPTAIN W.E. JOHNS

(plus some interesting enclosures)

 

Nov 21 1954

 

Dear Mr. Norton:

 

Thank you for your appreciative and interesting letter.

 

The trouble is, I sold the copyrights of the first five Biggles books, and so not only lost control of them but sight of them as well.  However, having been sold and resold they have recently come to light.  Biggles Flies Again, the Cruise of the Condor and the Black Peril have been re-issued (in a different format) by the Thames Publishing Co, Ludgate House, Fleet St, London – through Woolworths + Marks + Spencers.  I have written new forewords (at my own request) to the Camels are Coming + Biggles of the Camel Squadron (the old P.F. (Popular Flying) stories) + these are due to appear very soon.  They are owned, I believe, by Latimer House Publishing Co. that is all I know about them; but I will get my agent to look them up and suggest an omnibus.  Next year Brockhampton Press (Leicester) are to re publish “Biggles Learns

 

to Fly” in their ordinary series.  This was a book of 1st war stories, written about 1933.

 

I may say that so many people are trying to get a complete collection of Biggles that first editions of the early stories are becoming valuable.  I have been offered large sums for them, but alas!  I have only one file copy myself.

 

The next book “Biggles in Australia” is due for publication in March

 

Yours Sincerely,

 

W. E. Johns

 

P.S.  I now have Biggles in 17 languages!

 

 

 

 

This letter was written and posted on Sunday 21st November 1954.  It is post marked

5.00 pm on that date, which is interesting as it was definitely a Sunday.  Did the Post Office work on Sundays in 1954?  Apparently so!

 

What is even more interesting is the envelope that W. E. Johns used appears to be a special one, presumably printed by his French publishers “Presses De La Cite”.  It advertises Johns’ books in French on the cover!

 

The orange flash on the left hand side of the envelope is pre-printed and not stuck on.

 

The lucky recipient of this letter was also sent a double sided leaflet setting out a list of W.E. Johns’ books available to buy.

 

On the front there is an excellent picture of Bill Johns from the First World War (with a facsimile signature) and on the back page there is an illustration of both Worrals and Biggles.

 

The illustration of Worrals is taken from the cover of “Worrals of the Islands” and the illustration of Biggles is taken from the frontispiece of “Biggles Takes a Holiday”.

 

Both pictures are by the artist Leslie Stead

 

 

A further booklet was also with the letter – as below

 

The introduction to the list of books was also used as an “Author’s Note” in the “Hampton Library” Biggles reprints (although the speed of aircraft was updated for those to be from 150 to over 1,500 mph!).  The last line is of great interest.  “The following list shows roughly the order in which the books were written”.

 

This shows that Biggles of the Camel Squadron was written before Cruise of the Condor, Flies East was written before Hits the Trail and, importantly, it confirms my point that South Seas must have been written before Baltic.  It is interesting to note that the order of the books does not follow the recognised list as per the publication order (as can be seen on my main page at www.biggles.com)

 

 

And finally, if all of the above was not enough,

 

W. E. Johns enclosed a signed photo!

 

I particularly like this one – although a well-known and regular photo that Johns’ used – this one has been printed in such a way that the picture is much lighter than usual, making it easier to actually see the autograph on the photograph.

 

Normally, the autograph is on the dark suit and the photo is much darker, making it very hard to see the autograph ………

 

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