Trends in Boy's PapersEdwin J. Brett ’s most popular periodical was Boys of England, published from 1866 until 1899. The popularity of the Jack Harkaway series, which eventually inspired Brett to syndicate the story, is cited as the reason for his financial success. The publisher’s command of disposable capital and his experiential (as well as opportunistic) approach to printing allowed him to launch a number of side projects such as Boys of the Empire, including a half-penny weekly, Boys of the World. Nevertheless, Boys of England was Brett’s second attempt at producing a boy’s paper and quickly achieved a circulation of no less than 250,000 during the 1870s (Bristow 37). This number is quite impressive considering the circulation of The Illustrated London News peaked at 300,000 and the satirical magazine Punch at 175,000.
In packaging his boys’ papers, Brett combined elements of the popular penny dreadful as well as the more conservative Religious Tract Society’s monthly Boy’s Own Magazine. The literary and visual form he established set the precedent for later Victorian penny weeklies (Boyd 33). Stylistic similarities are evident between various periodicals as well as different issues of his own publication; a brief glance at an individual issue of Boys of England alongside one of Boys of the Empire might cause an uninformed consumer to read the latter periodical simply as a color version of the former. In his attempt to expand and transfer readership among his multitudinous papers, it is apparent that this mimicry was the material embodiment of the publisher’s vision. - next