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

Curators at the library have been searching for the elusive 1939 first edition for at least a decade and finally spotted a copy when it appeared 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 chiefly 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.

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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.”

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He added: “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 eight to 80.”

The Broons first appeared in 1936 in the “fun section” of Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson’s Sunday Post newspaper.

In 1939, DC Thomson realised it had enough for a book, and gathered the comic strips together into an album.

Since the 1940 edition (which was published in 1939), The Broon annual has appeared every two years, alternating with the Oor Wullie annual.

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

Scott also attributes the popularity of The Broons, which is written in Scots, to the fact that people can relate to the characters and to the settings of tenement flats, the neighbourhood streets and nearby countryside.

He said: “The Broons is never fashionable and a wee bit behind the times. But in a way, that’s where most people live their lives.

“It’s a magical formula, this unchangingness means it can never be out of fashion. It is current and nostalgic at the same time, which has a very strong appeal.”

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 also view the comics and annuals at the library’s reading rooms.

The Broons and Oor Wullie were created by the same two men – R D Law and W D Watkins.