Even if you were never in the armed services, you undoubtedly have heard the phrase, “Hurry up and wait.” Even now it probably makes you groan. So what did American World War II GIs do while they were waiting?
They were reading!
Everyone was doing their part in the war effort, including publishers, editors, agents, and writers. The Council on Books in Wartime was created to do their bidding. In 1943 it created a series of paperback books to help those doing battle and who were hospitalized called the Armed Services Editions. The ASE series was both a precursor to the development of mass-market paperbacks and the biggest book give-away in the history of the world. Nearly 123 million books designed to fit into the pockets of World War II American GIs were issued between 1943 and 1947.
The books were issued in three sizes. Smaller length books were about four inches tall and five and one-half inches wide. Lengthier books were also wider than they were tall, about four and one-half inches tall and six and one-half inches wide. Books issued from 1946 through 1947 were destined for occupational forces. They were issued in a more standard upright/vertical format, about four inches wide by six and one-half inches tall.
More than 60 books within the series were paperback originals. They were often referred to as “made” books because they were compiled especially for the series. The list of authors with true first editions includes Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Dorothy Parker, Katherine Anne Porter, Sherwood Anderson, Abraham Lincoln, Eugene O’Neill, Mark Twain, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not a bad list, eh?
One of these books has both a first and second issue, although that information is not common knowledge. The book in question is A Rose for Emily and Other Stories by William Faulkner, No. 825 in the series, published in 1945. This very elusive Faulkner “A” item is cited in the Carl Petersen bibliography of Faulkner as A22. Most copies have a single slug line on the verso of the title page that reads, “Manufactured in the United States of America. Those are second issues. The first issue has an aerial view of a room on that page. How did this happen? A printer’s mis-imposition created the error, and the issue point, which was then corrected by stop-press. That aerial view of a room actually belongs to ASE No. 827, The Indigo Necklace by Frances Crane. A few of these anomalies, all first issues, did escape. Better check your collections.
For a much longer article on the ASE series, see my piece in the November 2001 issue of “Firsts” magazine or go to my website, www.jimbooks.com, were it is reprinted (see the left-side of the home page under Articles.