Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Paper salvage: Random House 1945

On the whole, American paper and book-stocks survived the Second World War in better shape than those in the UK, but there was still pressure to minimise paper loss, and a concerted push for paper salvage -- interestingly enough, one of the changes reported in the papers was that graduating classes across the country increasingly chose to avoid burning their textbooks when they graduated, taking their books to the pulping machines instead.

Books tended to become shorter and smaller, and there was less empty space up for grabs -- no luxurious blank pages, for instance, and only very minor breaks between chapters. There were also a series of impromptu design logos, that publisher's placed at the head of their books: the one pictured here comes from a copy of Gertrude Stein's account of life in Vichy France, Wars I Have Seen, published by Random House in 1945. Attractively, the Random House logo is here set against the background of the famous "V for Victory" symbol.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Looted books: Hungen 1945

During the Second World War, the Allied command became increasingly aware of the effect that the war was having on culture, broadly imagined, and several committees were set up to try and assess, maybe even minimise, the damage. Priorities included the restitution of looted fine art, and the preservation of architectural heritage (this second, it is well to point out, in large part because of their concerns about the impact of Allied bombing in Europe).
This led to the creation of the 'Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives' office (MFAA), a small group of officers with backgrounds in fine arts. These officers were loosely attached to the ground forces, and would zoot about the continent armed with cameras and Baedekers, cataloguing the damage, doing makeshift repairs and, ultimately, collecting portable material into depots for possible restitution. Although few people had anticipated the size of the problem, one of the major concerns turned out to be looted books, many millions of which ended up in the American Zone of occupation.
This was partly because Frankfurt, the "capital" of the American Zone, had been destined to be the centre for Nazi research into the "Jewish Question", and thus housed an enormous number of books looted from the libraries of Europe. The biggest MFAA find was in Hungen, about 50 km north of Frankfurt, and these two photos show the before and after: books dumped in a cellar, followed by books being properly shelved and catalogued. Ultimately, these caches would lead to the creation of the Offenbach Archival Depot, but more on this another day.
These two photographs are from a contemporary article by the first professional librarian attached to the MFAA, Leslie Irlyn Poste (see his 'Books Go Home From the Wars', Library Journal 73 (1 December 1948), pp. 1699-1704).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Burning Books: Ulysses (via Larry McMurtry)

An old mate of mine has just sent through an email about Larry McMurtry's new work, Books: A Memoir. McMurtry's book, a tale of his lifelong love of books, includes the following charming story, which is a particularly useful addition to the blog:
"The first literary critic I can recall reading was an English journalist who called himself Solomon Eagle, and who wrote hundreds of light essays of a bookish nature for a great variety of London magazines. I bought a book of his called Books in General and read it several times. Solomon Eagle was in fact a rather lightweight English man of letters named J.C. Squire. There are at least two series of Books in General - in time I acquired a respectable shelf of the now forgotten J.C. Squire, who was decidedly not a modernist. He was a big fan of Dr Johnson and a savage enemy of James Joyce. For a time he had some power in the London literary world - he even edited the London Mercury. When a review copy of Ulysses reached him - and there weren't many review copies of Ulysses sent out - Squire flung it in the fireplace, from which, fortunately, it was saved by a young editor who had better sense than his boss."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Paper Salvage: 1939

Paper salvage and recycling was actively pursued during the war, particularly in Great Britain, where paper stocks of all sorts were in short supply. This official advert by the 'Waste Paper Conservation Bureau' in the London Times sketches out the guidelines, especially for the home: "the small quantities which accumulate every week in Britain's ten million homes represent thousands of tons. The problem is to collect these small individual quantities immediately into one vast continuous stream of supply."
How to do it? Here, householders are encouraged to "hand it to the dustmen weekly" (it all sounds so civilised: here you go sport: last week's Evening Standard). Otherwise, people in remote areas might like to ask the boy scouts to come around.