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.

Mash1

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.

Mash2

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.

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.

Astronomische Beschreibung und Nachricht von dem Cometen 1746

Kindermann, Eberhard Christian  (fl. 1740)

Astronomische Beschreibung und Nachricht von dem Cometen 1746.  Und denen Noch Kommenden, Welche in denen Innen Besagten Jahren Erscheinen Werden

Dresden: Gottlob Christian Hilscher, 1746

[4], 14 p.  Engraved frontispiece

Kindermann 1

This rare publication describes in some detail a spectacular comet (allegedly one of the five brightest ever seen) that appeared in the year 1746.  It was first discovered by the Swiss astronomer Phillippe Loys De Chéseaux, and is designated by modern astronomers as C/1746:P1.  Kindermann’s pamphlet, the title of which can be translated as “Astronomical Description and Information Concerning the Comet of 1746,” besides commenting on that celestial body, attempts to show that it is the same comet that appeared earlier in 1682.  In addition, details are given about other periodic comets along with the dates of their expected return.  Kindermann either was unaware of, or chose to ignore, Edmond Halley’s published computations (in 1708) that in reality the comet of 1682 would not appear again until 1758.

Not a great deal is known about Kindermann.  In the 1740s he was the royal astronomer and mathematician to the Elector of Saxony, Friedrich Christian Leopold Johann Georg Franz Xaver von Sachsen.  He was the author of at least two other astronomical books, one of which was a lengthy treatise, Complete Astronomy (1744).  He is probably better known, at least among science fiction aficionados, as the author of Reise in Gedancken durch die Eröffneten Allgemeinen Himmels-Kugeln (1739) that uses an imaginary voyage through space to popularize astronomy, with creative speculations on the inhabitants of other planets.

Kindermann 2

A Martian Discovery?

In the attractive copperplate engraving that Kindermann uses as his frontispiece, he shows a portion of the solar system that includes the orbits of the Earth and its moon, as well as that of Mars and three comets.  What is remarkable—and perhaps an astronomical mystery—is that Kindermann shows Mars with its own single satellite, with the legend, “Path of the Martian moon discovered by the author [Kindermann] on 10 July 1744.”

Kindermann 3

It is quite remarkable because the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, were not officially discovered until 1877.  A telescope powerful enough to detect these two small bodies orbiting close to the planet did not exist in 1744.  This claim of Kindermann was not mentioned in the scientific literature until 1892 when Ralph Copeland’s “On a Pretended Early Discovery of a Satellite of Mars” appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Interestingly, Jonathan Swift in his Gulliver’s Travels (1726) posits the existence of two Martian moons in the chapter, “Voyage to Laputa,” and his speculations about them are astonishingly close to their actual specifications.