Scottish Library now home to rare 1930s comic The Dandy

It sold almost half a million copies when it was released yet less than 20 copies are believed to be in existence.

The National Library of Scotland has acquired the very first edition of The Dandy comic published in December 1937      photo: Jon Savage
The National Library of Scotland has acquired the very first edition of The Dandy comic published in December 1937 photo: Jon Savage

Now the National Library of Scotland has filled one of the most significant gaps in its collection - by acquiring the very first edition of The Dandy comic published in December 1937.

The earliest adventures of Desperate Dan, Korky the Kat and Keyhole Kate have been secured for the nation after a lengthy search by experts, who regard it as the "first modern British comic."

Along with its Beano stablemate, which was launched less than a year later, The Dandy swiftly became a huge success story for Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson.

National Library of Scotland now home to rare 1930s comic photo: Jon Savage

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Characters' speech had previously been found in the text below illustrations in comic strips.

The Dandy was also the first in what was planned as a brand series of comics by DC Thomson - signalling a major shift from adventure story collections, such as Adventure, Rover, The Wizard, The Skipper and The Hotspur.

The first edition of The Dandy is said to be one of the rarest items in the National Library's entire collection of more than 31 million items dating back more than 1000 years. Around 5000 new items are added to its collection each week.

The Dandy, which would go on to hit a sales peak of two million copies a week by the 1950s, was Britain's longest-running comic when it ceased publication in 2012 on its 75th birthday.

Dudley D Watkins, the Glasgow School of Art graduate best known for co-creating The Broons and Oor Wullie for DC Thomson, also illustrated the Desperate Dan strip in The Dandy when it launched, drawing inspiration for the character's look from editor Albert Barnes' big chin.

Ian Scott, collections curator at the National Library, said: "We've been trying to fill the gaps in our collection of DC Thomson's comics, because they are so iconic and also because they were published in Dundee.

"DC Thomson brought out a series of boys's papers in the 1920s and 1930s, which were very successful and tried one for girls, but it was a big flop.

"RD Low, who was in charge of children's publications at DC Thomson, who had introduced Oor Wullie and The Broons to The Sunday Post. After their success he decided to wanted to model a children's comic on the newspaper's fun section, where they appeared every week.

"When The Dandy and Beano came out they were probably not seen as having any cultural significance.

“But, in many ways, The Dandy was the first modern British comic, and should be of great interest to anyone researching popular literature."

The National Library, which acquired the first edition from a private dealer for an undisclosed sum, has also issued a public appeal to fans of Beano and The Dandy to help them fill gaps in its collections dating up to the end of the 1960s.

Mr Scott added: "It is estimated there are only around 20 copies of the first edition known to be in existence, which makes this copy one of the rarest items in our collections.

“We were pleased to add this rare first edition to our holdings – ensuring its preservation for future generations.

"We’re actively filling the gaps in our holdings of British comics and annuals. They tell us so much about the social mores of the time.”

"We're appealing to anyone who may have pre-1970 editions of The Dandy – or indeed its sister publication, Beano – to consider adding them to the national collections.”