Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Paper Salvage: has its limits

During the Second World War paper was a much straitened commodity. As a result, paper recycling and salvage drives, around the world but particularly in the United States and to an even greater extent in Great Britain, were commonplace. Among the great swathes of newsprint that were recycled, literally tens of millions of books were also pulped at this time, although most were committed to the machines only after being vetted by volunteers and librarians, who extracted rare and useful items and put them aside, usually donating the salvaged books to libraries, or sending them to POWs. This photograph, which I stumbled across in Life magazine for May 1944, makes an unusual counterpoint, but is also one of very few photos I have ever found of the good guys burning any sort of written material: even confidential papers, as here.


Anna said...

Hi Matthew
how are you?
Great blog.
Have you read Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, particularly book one?
Peake was a british war artist, with troops when they liberated belsen. Keep this in mind, rather than Robert Smith's lyrics to the drowning man which were lifted from book two, and the trilogy reads very closely to [its] contemporary politics, rise of communism, nazism, the end of aristocracies etc. therefore the book burning scene may be relevant, or of interest to you.
good luck with your research.
looking forward to reading your book

Matthew Fishburn said...

Hello Anna --
thanks for your comment and your kind words. I haven't read the Gormenghast trilogy, and didn't know of the scene you mention -- many thanks for the tip. I'll be sure and have a look when I get a chance.