Books Go To War

Armed Services Editions, 1943-1947

During the Second World War the paperback series known as the Armed Services Editions were distributed free to American soldiers, sailors, and airmen overseas.

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The idea for the program came from two Army officers and was further developed by the Council on Books in Wartime, an association of publishers, booksellers, and librarians.  This group was able to convince the armed forces, publishers, and printing firms of the positive impact that this initiative would have on the American men in uniform.

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Not sold or available in the United States, these paperback books introduced thousands of servicemen to the pleasures of reading.  Between 1943 and 1947, almost 123 million copies of 1,322 titles were printed.  All types of literature were available: classics, best-sellers, non-fiction, mysteries, and westerns, among others.

The books displayed here are from the Grand Valley State University Libraries’ collections and loaned by J. Randall Bergers.

A Creative Process, Illustrated

Every writer develops his or her own process for creation. Some writers make copious notes, doodles, and drafts to flesh out their ideas. Others allow an idea to germinate and grow internally before committing the nearly-complete story or poem to paper. In Conversations with Jim Harrison, edited by Robert DeMott, Harrison describes his own process thusly: “I write my original drafts by hand – The Road Home was in pen on yellow, lined legal paper. Then Joyce Bahle types my manuscript and gives it to me and then I check it against the manuscript, go through it again and give it to her. I don’t revise substantively” (204).

Jim Harrison signed logo

Within the Jim Harrison papers, this process is documented again and again. The collection, donated to Grand Valley State University in 2005, comprises over 360 boxes of drafts, correspondence, publications, photographs, and other material by and about the Michigan-born writer, and spans his life from 1938 to the present day.

Though possibly most famous for his fiction and as the author of Legends of the Fall, the novella which inspired a 1994 film adaptation starring Brad Pitt, Harrison identifies himself first and foremost as a poet. The “yellow, lined legal paper” Harrison describes in the quote above can be found throughout the many boxes of his own writings, which include poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays.

In the image below, a section of Harrison’s poem “Geo-Beastiary” is shown in its three development phases: first as a handwritten draft, then as a computer typescript (this one is dated April 1998), and finally as a printed broadside. The 34-part poem was initially published in full in The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems (1998).

from "Geo-Beastiary"
Jim Harrison’s creative process demonstrated with a section of “Geo-Beastiary.” (click the image to enlarge)

Later in the same conversation with DeMott, Jim elaborates on his creative journey:

“This outpouring is a cumulative process, and when it ends, as with The Road Home, and then with “Geo-Bestiary,” you just don’t always have any idea how it happened. You think maybe it was more like a seizure, a long seizure” (208).

What is particularly striking about Harrison’s creative process is his sheer prolificacy coupled with the near-completeness of his first drafts. He is the author of 20 major works of fiction, 5 non-fiction books, 18 books of poetry, a children’s book, and either scripted or co-wrote three screenplays.


Works cited:

DeMott, Robert, ed. Conversations with Jim Harrison, Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2002.

Harrison, Jim. “Geo-Beastiary,” The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems, Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press, 1998.

D. J. Angus: In search of adventure

The people, places, and things that captured the imagination of a Midwestern original

Donald James Angus (1887-1966), born in Wisconsin, was a self-educated electrical engineer specializing in measuring and recording devices. He was co-owner of Esterline-Angus Co. of Indianapolis, and was an amateur radio enthusiast and photographer.

D. J. Angus was especially interested in photographing man-made engineering feats, and recorded dams, mills, bridges, and Mt. Rushmore under construction. He was drawn to the culture and architecture of ancient civilizations and traveled to the Southwest for cliff-dwellings and Aztec ruins, and to Mexico for pre-Columbian pyramids. Angus traveled at a time when the National Parks were being established and before restrictions were placed on access by visitors. He photographed natural phenomena — geysers, lava fields, canyons, and craters and natural disasters. His documentation of the aftermath of floods, shipwrecks, tornadoes and cyclones throughout the mid-West captured his adventurous spirit as well as these one-time events. His images provide a visual chronicle of technological changes at a time when the country was undergoing rapid modernization and provide a lasting record of the country during the late 1920s – mid 1930s.

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The Midwest

D. J. Angus grew up in Wisconsin, and lived most of his life in Indiana and Michigan. He had an understanding and an eye for the Midwest and the lives of Midwesterners. His family and friends were willing subjects of some of his most interesting photos.

Angus family picnic
Angus family picnic at Highland Park on the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan
Angus family members dressed for a game of golf, 1923
Angus family members dressed for a game of golf, 1923

Angus was often on site recording the latest disasters, from cyclones to shipwrecks.

Cyclone damage in Indianapolis, 1927
Cyclone damage in Indianapolis, 1927
Plane crash in Grand Haven, 1931
Plane crash in Grand Haven, 1931
Beach erosion at Highland Park on Lake Michigan, 1952
Beach erosion at Highland Park on Lake Michigan, 1952

Personal Interests and Travel

Angus was a founder of the Indianapolis Radio Club in 1914 and a licensed ham radio operator. He helped design the first portable radio sending and receiving units for the Indiana State Police.

D.J. Angus at Radio set W9CYQ in Room 66 at the YMCA, Indianapolis, Indiana.
D.J. Angus at Radio set W9CYQ in Room 66 at the YMCA, Indianapolis, Indiana.
D.J. Angus with ca. 1910 motorcycle he rode from Lafayette, Indiana to Niagara Falls, New York.
D.J. Angus with ca. 1910 motorcycle he rode from Lafayette, Indiana to Niagara Falls, New York.

D. J. Angus spent many summer camping trips exploring the American Southwest. Traveling during the 1930s, gave him unprecedented access to the National Parks and wilderness areas not available to visitors today.

Cliff-dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado
Cliff-dwellings at Mesa Verde, Colorado

The country was rapidly changing to accommodate Westward expansion, and National Parks protected the country’s natural wonders for the enjoyment of future generations. Angus traveled west in 1934 when George Washington’s face was dedicated at Mt. Rushmore and the Hoover Dam was under construction.

Zion National Park in Utah.
Zion National Park in Utah.
Shoshone Dam near the entrance to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.
Shoshone Dam near the entrance to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming.
Mt. Rushmore under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Mt. Rushmore under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In all, D.J. Angus traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Waterwheel at mill near Cumberland, Tennessee.
Waterwheel at mill near Cumberland, Tennessee.
Pushing a wicker “taxi” in Coney Island, New York.
Pushing a wicker “taxi” in Coney Island, New York.
Caracol (The Observatory) at Chichen Itza, Mexico
Caracol (The Observatory) at Chichen Itza, Mexico

The collection was donated to Grand Valley State University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archives by Charles Angus in 1986.

 

Chained Books

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, books were valuable goods in that they were expensive to purchase.  One source mentions that one book was worth as much as a farm.  Being portable, books were easily subject to theft.  To prevent such occurrences, churches and schools developed a system of chaining books to tables, desks and lecterns in such a way that they could be read, but not taken away.

This book still has its sixteenth-century chain of eight links that is connected to a hasp, itself attached to the rear wooden cover.  The book appears to have been owned privately before it ended up as part of the collection of the English parochial library in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, which probably added the chain. Grand Valley State University Libraries purchased the volume in 2011, and it can be viewed and studied at Special Collections & University Archives.

Suetonius 1491 binding

Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius. Vitae XII Caesarum. With commentary by Marcus Antonius Sabellicus.
Added texts: Marcus Antonius Sabellicus, Epistola Augus-tino Barbadico and Vita Suetonii. Ausonius, Versus. Sicco Polentonus, De Suetonio.
Milan: Uldericus Scinzenzaler, 19 November 1491.
Folio.  Collation:  a-f8 g-h10 i-m8 n-r6 s8 (-s8 [blank])

Suetonius, a Roman historian, was born ca. AD 70 and died sometime after 130.  He was a contemporary of Tacitus, another Roman historian, and friends with Pliny the Younger.  Suetonius was a prolific writer, but his most famous work is Lives of the Twelve Caesars.  It has always been a popular work, although it concentrates on personalities and ignores the generalities of the times and society, and perhaps relies too much on gossip, scandal, and amusing anecdotes.  No fewer than thirteen editions were printed in the fifteenth century.

Dell Map Backs

Dell Publishing was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte.  In the 1920s and 1930s it published a variety of magazines, including the so-called “pulps,” as well as comic books.  Beginning in 1943 the company began its foray into paperback publishing, which consisted mostly of reprints of hardcover mystery novels, but later included westerns and romances.

With its fifth book in 1943, George Harmon Coxe’s Four Frightened Women, the company initiated its ten-year program of putting a map on the back cover of these books.  These “scene of the crime” maps could show streets of a town or city, the plan of a country house or apartment, or a bird’s-eye-view drawing of the locale where the story takes place.  Some are not maps at all, but merely drawings that illustrate scenes from the novel.  This successful marketing strategy gradually ended by 1953; by that time more than 600 Dell map backs had been issued.  They are now highly esteemed by collectors.

A few examples from the University Libraries collection are featured here.  The wide range of front cover art should be noted; some are very well designed, while others are more typical of lurid and sensational pulp fiction.


 Mysteries

Spring Harrowing by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Spring Harrowing by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Romance

White Fawn by Olive Higgins Prouty
White Fawn by Olive Higgins Prouty
The Heart Remembers by Faith Baldwin
The Heart Remembers by Faith Baldwin

Westerns

Gunsmoke and Trail Dust by Bliss Lomax
Gunsmoke and Trail Dust by Bliss Lomax
Cactus Cavalier by Norman A. Fox
Cactus Cavalier by Norman A. Fox

Assemblies, Cotillions, and Whigs

There are often surprises to be found in collections of family papers.  One such serendipitous discovery among the Bachelder, Curtis, and Kellogg Family Correspondence (RHC-75) is a series of ten invitations to social events held at the Hallowell House in Hallowell, Maine between 1835 and 1840.  All are printed on one side of a folded sheet of paper.  On the back of each is a single line of handwriting, “Miss Curtis,” which suggests that these were delivered by hand rather than sent in the mail.  The recipient was Massachusetts-born Susan Wheelwright Curtis (1818-1855).

Hallowell House
Image courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum

Hallowell House was a five-storey hotel constructed in 1832 that contained not only rooms, but a restaurant, a ballroom, a bank, and a post office.  The Federal-style building was designed by John D. Lord who supervised the construction of the Maine State Capitol building.  From the invitations it is clear that Hallowell House hosted a variety of community gatherings and events, from grand balls to political assemblies.

Hallowell House invitations

It is most likely that the invitations were printed by the Hallowell firm of Glazier, Masters & Smith who were active in that town between 1820 and the late 1840s, publishing political and religious tracts, proceedings of the Maine legislature, speeches, among others.

Hallowell House invitations

Susan Curtis evidently saved these invitations as souvenirs of enjoyable times.  On a few of them can be discerned a lightly-penciled response, “accepted” or “declined.”  It is of interest to note that the cotillion party of October 1840 was organized by C. G. Bachelder (1810-1871), whom Susan would marry in 1841.  By their very nature as ephemera, these invitations are most probably the only surviving copies.

Hallowell House invitations

Art by an Unknown Medieval Craftsman

Arv-Brv copy

Eusebius Caesariensis (ca. 263-ca. 339) was an early historian of the Christian Church who lived in Caesarea Maritima, located on the eastern Mediterranean coast in what is now Israel.  He became Bishop of Caesarea around 313 and was a prolific writer on many religious topics.  One of his many works that has survived is his De Evangelica Praeparatione (translated as Preparation for the Gospel) in which he attempts to prove the superiority of Christianity in comparison with all other ancient religions.

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There were six editions of De Evangelica Praeparatione printed in the fifteenth century.  Grand Valley State University Libraries’ Special Collections has the edition from 1497 printed in Venice by Bernardinus Benalius.  While not particularly rare, this copy has remarkable illustrated initials at the beginning of each of the book’s fifteen chapters and preface, all different and all executed with supreme skill.  These large blue initials contain fanciful birds, reptiles, amphibians, snakes, monkeys, and other creatures; the background of intricately interlaced red penwork also demonstrates the artistic ingenuity.  The final initial also carries the Christogram, the symbol used as the abbreviation of Jesus Christ; it combines the first two Greek letters in the name Christ (Χριστος), chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ).

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