Our mission is to promote Scouting through the preservation and display of Scouting Memorabilia and the teaching of the history of Scouting in the United States.

Boy Scout Handbooks


Items from the Past

Books and Other Printed Material


This edition was written hastily by Ernest Thompson-Seton in order to meet the demands of Scouts.  Incorporating part of BPs handbook and Seton’s own principles of the Woodcraft Indians.  All copies have 192 pages, some variations have interleaved blank pages.  A total of 68,900 copies were printed, but the number of each variation is unknown.


FIRST and SECOND EDITION HANDBOOK 1911—300,000 copies

There were 4500 "draft" documents sent to various youth program leaders and academies for their input.  These were printed with "Proof total Copy" on the title page of the handbook.  The handbook was printed by BSA staff at the Doubleday publishers under James West's direction to ensure that it was available in the time period promised.

Another 320 copies were printed on June 13, 1911 that stated "Proof Copy" on the title page.  The June printing contained 320 pages (more if your copy had interleaved blank pages).  The August printing contained 400 pages, were not marked "Proof" on the title page, and a total of 40,000 copies were printed.


There appears to be 10 printings of the Second Edition.  Some title pages are printed with "Fourth Edition" and a printing of Jan. 31, 1913 had "1912" printed on the title page.


There were approximately 300,000 copies of the Second Edition published (the numbers for 3 printings are unknown).  The 10th printing of March 3, 1914, was for 25,000 copies, with a maroon cover and no mention of the printing date on the title page.

THIRD EDITION HANDBOOK 1914—4,000,000 Copies

It took about 7 years to get the image on the front cover correct.  The artist was J.C. Leyendecker made several mistakes including putting the Scout’s badge on the wrong side, leaving the hanging knot off the Scout emblem, having the Scout signaling by semaphore using Morse flags and not having the Scout’s arms positioned to represent a semaphore letter.  In December 1916, the image was flipped 180 degrees, which took are of the badge issue.  The semaphore letter was now an “L” and the knot was added to the emblem.  Finally in 1921, the flags were corrected .  The 1921 printing was unusual in that it used a different font for the title, which was not repeated.  There were 14 more printings of this edition with the last printing (37th) being issued in May of 1927. 


EIGHTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1972—2,750,000 copies

The first printing consisted of 1,500,000 copies.  Subsequent printings were smaller and consisted of 750,000 copies of the 2nd printing, and 500,000 copies of the 3rd printing.

EIGHTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1976—950,000 copies

The fourth printing of the Eighth Edition was a grouping of Scouts in various Scouting activities.  The design is a painting by Joseph Csatari titled "All Out for Scouting".

Hardbound copies of the 4th and 5th printings continued to use the former format with the new cover sometimes bound in and sometimes not.

NINETH EDITION HANDBOOK 1979—2,745,000 copies

The cover for this Edition was from a painting by Norman Rockwell.  It is in full color with a group of Scouts gathered by a lake.  The picture depicts a scene at the Schiff Scout Reservation in New Jersey.

The cover background is white with either black only or red and blue lettering titled "The Official Boy Scout Handbook". The first printing of the Ninth Edition consisted of 600,000 copies.  No information is available on the number with black lettering and the number with red and blue lettering.  The second printing was of 400,000 copies.  The 3rd through the 12th printings were of 350,000 copies each.  Total copies printed for the Ninth Edition total approximately 4,600,000 copies.

TENTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1990—1,000,000 copies

This Edition has a glossy soft cover with three color action photographs of Scouting activities.  The photos were to get Scouts excited about some of the adventures Scouting has to offer.

ELEVENTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1998—2,745,000 copies

Totally redesigned to bring Scouting into the 21st CenturyThe new edition of the Boy Scout Handbook is not just a guide to the outdoors - but a guide for life that addresses issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, respecting others, and using the Internet appropriately.

SEVENTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1965—4,375,000 copies

Between 600,000 and 750,000 copies were printed for each printing except for the 7th printing.  The last printing consisted of only 235,000 copies.  Total number of Seventh Edition Handbooks printed numbered more than 4,285,000 copies.


SIXTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1959—4,000,000 copies

The first printing of this Edition was the first time more than one million Handbooks were printed at once.  The first printing consisted of 1,050,000 copies.

The second through the sixth printings consisted of 525,000 copies each.  The seventh printing was only 200,000 copies and all advertisements in this printing were replaced with a 24 page supplement listing the revised requirements for advancement.

FOURTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1940—715,000 copies

There were seven printing of this edition with approximately 100,000 of each printing, giving a total of 715,000 copies.  By late 1943 and early 1944 printings, the color plates were removed from the editions to save on pigment (effects of World War II).

FOURTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1927—3,207,000 copies

Again, each printing of this edition numbered approximately 100,000 copies making the total for the edition greater than 3.2 million copies.

There is some information that indicates all printings of the Forth Edition were printed in hardbound but this has not been verified by researchers.

FIFTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1948—840,000 copies

The first printing of this Edition consisted of 105,000 copies and was printed in June 1948.  The second printing also consisted of 105,000 copies and was printed in April 1949.  The "65¢" at the bottom of the cover page on the first printing was dropped from the second printing.



FIFTH EDITION HANDBOOK 1949—5,160,000 copies

The third printing of this Edition consisted of 105,000 copies in April 1950.  Printings 4 through 12 were increased to 525,000 each printing.  This created a total of 4,830,000 printings of the Fifth Edition with the Indian spirit cover.

Between 10,000 to 20,000 copies of the 10th printing had a 4 page insert at the front of the book commemorating the printing of the 15 millionth copy of the Handbook for Boys.  This printing was issued in January 1957.


The new centennial-edition is titled The Boy Scout Handbook A Guide To Adventure, A Guide For Life.  The new handbook was prepared to prepare Scouts to enter another century of Scouting.