Have you ever noticed how there seems to be LOADS of signed copies of the W. E. Johns book “The Passing Show”?

It appears harder to find an unsigned one, than it is to find a signed one!  I think I have discovered the reason for this.


The book “The Passing Show” is dated as being published in September 1937.

A brief reference is made to the book in the September 1937 issue of “My Garden” as being available from 1st October and more details are given in the October 1937 issue.

Here are the relevant pages from that October issue:-






Note the highlighted text.

“I have induced Capt. Johns, at the risk of developing chronic writer’s cramp, to sign all copies of this book order through this office before December 15th.

So it would appear that all copies from September/October to mid-December 1937 were signed!

And you can bet that was the bulk of sales as people bought the book as Christmas presents!



Below are some examples of the different Johns signatures that can be found on copies of “The Passing Show”.

Notice how the signatures differ slightly, with the position on the book page and the length of the line that Johns has drawn underneath.







On the examples below, the “J” in Johns has a little loop.  This is how Johns signed his name earlier in the 1930s.

On the left we have a signature on a copy of “The Passing Show” presumably signed around October to December 1937.

On the right we have a signed first edition of “The Black Peril” published in March 1935 and so probably signed around that time.

Johns used to loop the “J” in his name far more in the early 1930s.






Here are some signed books from the mid 1950s showing how Johns signature changed over the years.

The “W” and “E” are much more distinct and the “J” of his surname is far clearer and less stylised.







Below is an unsigned inscription written into a book called “Short Sorties”.  This book is a collection of short stories written for adults, hence the inscription.







And finally, here are some of the rarest signatures ……….

The two books below were signed to Nicholas, the great nephew of a friend and neighbour of W. E. Johns when he lived at Park House, Hampton Court.

Nicholas sold them to a book shop ……. and I subsequently bought them both


They are signed copies of “Biggles and the Penitent Thief” and “Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea”.

I can imagine Johns going into his house to get two copies of his books to sign.

Deep Blue Sea was only published in February 1968, so this must have been signed in the last four months of Johns’ life as he died in June 1968.

Signed copies of Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea are virtually unheard of.

This must have been one of the last books W. E. Johns actually signed and I like to believe it is from his own collection.