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Publishing in wartime (ww2 paper restrictions)

American History

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Edited: Aug 3, 2010, 12:46am Top

What do you know about the restrictions placed on publishers during WW2? I have seen in a few of my books, under the publishers information, a statement of compliance with the wartime restrictions.
What year did it go into effect? Did it end the day the war ended? Also what effect does that have on the value of books printed during that time? What of the books printed those years that didnt comply?

:) Like I said I'm pretty new to this world. I'm enjoying the start of my own little library, and have been finding between my husband and I, we have really narrowed our collection to the theme of America; wars, history, events that shaped our nation, military, etc.
I would love to be more educated on the paper rationing, and wartime laws placed on the publishers. :)

Thanks for any information you have :)

Oct 9, 2010, 5:15pm Top

On your own, you have probably found much information by this time, but here are a few interesting tidbits ...




It seems that book publishing flourished during the war ... titles may have been limited, but sales and volume increased in several countries, including the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

Publishing was greatly curtailed in Japan, but, interestingly, the then very young author, Mishima Yukio, published his first book during the worst days of WWII.

Edited: Jul 21, 2016, 2:32pm Top

I've been digging for more details on these regulations and finally found this blog post by Chris Forster (@cforster) at Syracuse U: http://tinyurl.com/zeqqwp6 "Typography versus Hitler—The Book Production War Economy Agreement." I just tweeted about it on the account of the library where I work, @Cooper_Library.

Aug 11, 2016, 4:01pm Top

Both World War I and World War II saw publishers facing higher costs and rationed supplies of the elements essential to book production. This included obvious things like paper, but also cloth, copper, lead, and chlorine. Book cloth started to be replaced with pressed paper cover stock in World War II. Copper was used to make electrotype printing plates. Lead was a key element in the type metal used in line casters like Linotype (though this material was reused). Chlorine was used to "bleach" and change the pH level of woodpulp to make is stay white and flexible over time. It was also used as a key ingredient of explosives manufacture.

In World War II in the U.S. the rationing body was the War Production Board and newspaper database searches for this phrase and "paper shortage" bring up several interesting items.

Since I collect juvenile series books, it is not uncommon to see a Grosset & Dunlap book featuring a "Wartime Conditions" notice on the title page or dust jacket.

These appeared on G&D books from 1943 to 1945. The exact months is not quite certain though enough study has been made on the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books that it might be possible to get a rough estimate by making a study of the reference books for those.

Some of the books around this era replaced price codes on the jacket with "P. C. J." At one time I thought I found a reference to what this stood for but I have forgotten and cannot find it again.

Grosset & Dunlap, as an example, started to use pulp paper (that turns brown and brittle with exposure to heat, sunlight, and air) starting in 1942 as white paper supplies dwindled. A typical Nancy Drew book was about 2 inches thick in 1941 and 1942. However, thinner paper was used over time so that by 1945 the books were only about 1 inch thick.

The pulp paper continued to be used by Grosset & Dunlap through 1948. Only by 1949 was good paper being used on the juvenile series books.

Grosset & Dunlap had long held a position as a reprint house of "popular copyright fiction." In this case, "popular" referred to lower prices. Where a novel for adult readers might initially be offered at $1.25 or $1.50, Grosset & Dunlap would use the same plates (leased or purchased) and reprint a cheaper edition at 50 cents. In the middle was A.L. Burt, with 75¢ reprints.

Sometimes a title like a book by L.M. Montgomery such as Anne's House of Dreams, might have a Frederick Stokes original at $1.25, an A.L. Burt reprint at 75¢, and a later Grosset & Dunlap reprint at 50¢.

The ratio of prices of these hardcovers is similar to today's ratio of a hardcover fiction novel ($25-$30) and a mass-market paperback ($8-$10), roughly 3 to 1.

While many novels of the World War II era used smaller page sizes and board sizes, there are some books that have been seen, like Felix Salten's Bambi where the Wartime Conditions edition is on larger paper than previously.

I have a collection of articles on the topic of the paper shortages during wartime but haven't seen a comprehensive study of book publishing. I am curious to see Books as Weapons as the Google books preview looks interesting.


Aug 11, 2016, 4:35pm Top

>4 Keeline: ...At one time I thought I found a reference to what this stood for...

..."PCJ," for Price Code J, which would indicate New York City's brilliant price control scheme 1942 and after...

Found on book description on ABE. No idea how accurate that is...

Aug 11, 2016, 5:48pm Top

Thank you for the tip. I will investigate that.


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