The period from the late 1800's through the mid-1950's saw the regular publication of several Boys' Book Series that were published annually. These popular books were often given as gifts to the young boys in the family to both entertain them and to nurture their skills in building things and exploring the world.
These Annuals were different from the boy character literature series that were so popular in the early to mid 1900's (e.g. The Hardy Boys series of books) in that they focused on short stories of daring, adventure and science as well as having detailed descriptions and drawings of projects to be built by young fellows seeking to build real items that would provide some thrilling play experiences.
The premier example of this type of series was the Boys Own Annual 1(see footnote) series that was published from 1884 through the 1970's. There were several other series produced by publishers who recognized the success of this format.
The books suited the era. Every home seemed to have some type of tools and little workshop and many fathers were accomplished tinkerers and builders. So, having a book that would suggest things to build for young boys was logical and highly successful for the publishers. The series were such a money maker that publishers around the world got in on the act and published their own national versions of these books. Thus, Australia had The Australian Boys Annual and France, Holland, Germany, and Russia also produced versions in their respective language, tailored to the interest of youth in their nations.
Since kites were popular with boys and their use as scientific tools were being written about in newspapers, almost every edition of these annuals would have a few pages devoted to kite building.
The oldest of this type of book in my library is the 1844 faux-leather bound edition of the Boys' Own Book: A Complete Encyclopedia of All the Diversions of Boyhood and Youth. It actually predates the publication of the Boy's Own Annual versions, but it contains many of the same components that made the Boy's Own Paper and its annual companion such popular volumes with young boys.
Here is the excerpt on kites from pages 26-27:
The article includes a description and instructions for building an Arch Top kite, very popular in the early to late 1800's.
As the Boys' Books Series evolved over the years, different kites, in keeping with the era of publication, would be included in the annual. Other kite types featured over the years included: the Diamond or Tailless Malay, box kites, Conyne type kites, and bird shaped kites.
These books can be fine sources of information for kite builders and historians seeking to find kites that were applicable to various eras.
1. The Boy's Own Annual was based on the British paper The Boy's Own Paper which began publication in January 1879. The story paper was published on a periodic basis by the Religious Tract Society. later, other publishing houses took the publication over and continued it's run up until 1967. Beginning in 1879 the annual edition was bound into a large, attractive book and sold in book stores across the English speaking world. The Boy's Own Annual was published in a modified format until 1976. By then, the times had changed so much that this type of publication was no longer profitable.
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