The Cool Factor

One of the joys of bookselling is finding a unique item, something unusual, something that might be described as having the cool factor.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive item. It could even be something decidedly inexpensive. A perfect gem is still perfect even if it is tiny in size.

A-26, Lord Jim

A-26, Lord Jim

One recent acquisition falls into the cool category. It is Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, the Armed Services Editions (ASE) issue. The book by itself isn’t unique, even if it is just the 26th book issued by the Council on Books in Wartime which issued 123 million paperback books to American GIs from 1943 to 1947.

This acquisition came with a custom slipcase. That’s pretty cool. When was the last time you saw a collectible paperback housed within a slipcase?

The slipcase is nice, if not special in and of itself, although it is stamped “Armed Services Editions – 1943” in gilt along its spine.

Slipcase spine

Slipcase spine

Has it risen to the level of unique? Not yet.

What if I said it was one of two copies own by Malcolm Johnson, an executive director of the Council on Books in Wartime? Johnson is considered one of the founding fathers of the ASEs.


George C. Marshall letter

George C. Marshall letter

And what if you found a letter inside to Johnson from George C. Marshall thanking Johnson for sending him the very first book in the ASE series? Marshall was chief of staff of the War Department during World War II, was architect of the Marshall Plan for Europe’s reconstruction after World War II. He was also the 50th Secretary of State, the third Secretary of Defense, and went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.



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