My interest in collecting rare books associated with art and artists who were involved in the First World War began during a trip to the Imperial War Museum, London when I was 17 years old. I was deeply moved by the paintings of William Orpen, C.R.W. Nevison, Olive Mudie Cooke, and Paul Nash among others. It was my father who, as an avid collector of books and antiques, suggested that a collection could be built on such a subject. However, I didn't really take my collecting potential seriously until I attended two exhibitions at the Yale Center for British Art, "Doomed Youth: The Poetry and Pity of World War I" and "C.R.W. Nevinson: The Twentieth Century." Looking at the scrapbooks, sketches, manuscripts, broadsides, and pamphlets made me realize the potential for collecting in such a subject. As a collector starting out in the 1990s, I was on the cusp of the growth of online book search engines and the decline of bookshops and fairs. I point this out because I have benefitted by the ability to build a comprehensive collection on a subject as vast as the First World War by simply hitting key strokes in my living room. However, for me, more memorable are the weekends of buying books at well-known and lesser known shops and fairs throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. Collecting such a focused subject has led me to meeting many of the descendants of writers and artists who depicted the war and served prominently in it. This, I think, is an often overlooked part of book collecting. Although, I am interested in and do collect books in many other areas – travel writing, book plates, ethnographic art, espionage, fiction, - the First World War has interested me the most for over 30 years.
Ambulance 464 Encore Des Blesses.
Julien H. Bryan. New York: McMillan Co, 1918.
Julien H. Bryan’s Ambulance 464 is one of the many firsthand accounts by Americans who volunteered to drive ambulances for France during WWI. Although not a rare book, this is the only signed copy I have encountered. Bryan inscribed this copy to a fellow classmate at Princeton in 1919. Bryan’s own photographs illustrate the book and, in a way, offer a prelude to his contribution as a documentary filmmaker in WWII.
Modern War Paintings.
C.R.W. Nevinson. London: Grant Richards, 1917.
Christopher Nevinson’s Modern War Paintings is a collection of 25 illustrations in his characteristic Cubist and Futurist style. It is one of the few printed books during the war to emerge from a singular English artist. As P.G. Konody writes in the introduction, Nevinson’s work is “brutally frank” and a represents a “grim, undiluted tragedy.”
Collection of Illustrations by Various Artists on Censorship of Letters at Ahmednagar Prison of War Camp.
Album of drawings. 1917.
This tattered autograph album truly represents that WWI was a global war – fought in many ways beyond the western front. Funny, but sometimes grim, this album of 10 drawings shows German prisoners and their unhappy attitude toward the censoring of letters in the British prisoner of war camp in Ahmednagar India. The album’s owner, J.E. Hudson, has inscribed his name on the flyleaf. Humorously, his name can also be found as the author of The Censor’s Duty, tucked in the corner, in the closing illustration, “The Assistant Censor.”