UK Services Editions


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Prisoners of War

Posted by Baronbern on July 17, 2010 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (134)

So far as I know, the Penguin POW editions are the only UK paperbacks produced specifically for distribution to British POWs held in enemy camps, although large numbers of other books were sent out through a special permit scheme.


The Penguin POW editions were based on a similar subscription scheme to that used for the Penguin Forces Book Club (see my post of 29 May 2010) and although some changes were made, it seems not to have been much more successful. Subscriptions for ...

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A passage to India

Posted by Baronbern on July 10, 2010 at 4:00 AM Comments comments (115)

The domestic UK market for paperbacks was severely restricted during the war by paper rationing, so publishers turned, not only to producing Services Editions, but also to international markets. With exports effectively ruled out, books had to be produced locally. Penguins appeared in a number of overseas markets and Collins launched their White Circle editions both in Canada and in Australia. Collins also started to produce a series of editions in India, and a smaller number in Ceylon.

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Bound for the forces

Posted by Baronbern on July 4, 2010 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Although most Services Editions were published as paperbacks, there is a surprising variety of hardback editions to be found.


The first to consider are the homemade bindings, on books published as paperbacks. Some army units or libraries added these bindings to paperbacks to make them last longer. They often seem to come with an Army Welfare stamp on the front, but they weren’t the only organisation to do this. Then there are a few of what seem to be publishers’...

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Weapons of war

Posted by Baronbern on June 26, 2010 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (128)

A famous poster from the US Office of War Information declared that ‘books are weapons in the war of ideas’. In which case, there was a lot of firepower on the allied side. A total of over 120 million US Armed Services Editions were printed and although the equivalent figure for UK Services Editions is unknown, my best guess is maybe something around 30 million. So maybe over 150 million books made available to Allied servicemen in Services Editions alone.


What ...

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Mint sources

Posted by Baronbern on June 19, 2010 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

For most book collectors, the question of condition is easy. They look for books in as near to mint condition as possible, books that look just as they did when they were new, still in their dustwrapper and with no markings at all, except possibly an author’s signature. The words ‘ex-library’ strike fear and loathing into the heart of many collectors, any ink stamps or other evidence of the source of the book are very undesirable, and signs of the book actually having been r...

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US Armed Services Editions

Posted by Baronbern on June 12, 2010 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (144)

The US Armed Services Editions (ASEs) are perhaps the best known and the most comparable of the Services Editions from other countries, although they are far from the only ones.


There’s a wealth of information about the ASEs available, including at least three histories published soon after the war. ‘A history of the Council on Books in Wartime’ was published in 1946 even before the Armed Services Editions had stopped publishing, and included a list of all...

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The choice of titles

Posted by Baronbern on June 6, 2010 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (113)

One of the complaints about the Penguin Forces Book Club was that the selection of titles was not suitable. The Services Central Book Depot noted in correspondence to Allen Lane at Penguin that letters received “show that many of the titles of the books are not generally acceptable”. Three categories were stressed as being suited – ‘warm’ fiction, westerns and crime, but Lane pointed out that Penguin had never published books in the first two categories, and only...

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Who were Guild Books?

Posted by Baronbern on May 30, 2010 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (144)

Almost half of all the Services Editions were issued under the imprint of Guild Books, although this never became a major name in other areas of British publishing. It was the imprint of The British Publishers Guild, described in the blurb on some of its early books as comprising 'a large group of British Publishers who are co-operating in the publication of a comprehensive list of important books of universal appeal, published in paper covers at a very low price.'

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The mystery of the missing Penguins

Posted by Baronbern on May 29, 2010 at 5:20 AM Comments comments (110)

Penguin was the dominant paperback publisher in the years leading up to the war, having effectively created the style with its launch in 1935. It had a particular success with the Penguin Specials just before the war, which in turn gave it access to a high paper ration for the rest of the war, and provided a springboard for its post-war success. It was also in some ways the first into the field of Services Editions with the launch of the ‘Forces Book Club’ in 1942.


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First printings and reprints on the Collins Editions

Posted by Baronbern on May 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Unlike the Guild editions, Collins Services Editions do all show the correct publishing year on the title page verso. Two dates are shown, first the date of publishing in the original hardback edition, then the date of the current Services Edition. This doesn’t however show if there has been an earlier printing in Services Edition.


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