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MASEFIELD (John) The Battle of the Somme. 1st Ed., [iv]+96pp. Heinemann. 1919  #67106
[HLMainPic] Limited edition of 250 copies. Masefield, Poet Laureate from 1930-67, contributed three books to Great War literature. "Gallipoli," published 1916 was based in part on personal experience as a volunteer nurse & sold in vast numbers; in August 1916 he went to France & in October Lord Esher, in France in an undefined but confidential role (Vansittart claims as head of British Military Intelligence), suggested he write a book on the Somme campaign. He promptly embraced this task: "I walked over every part of the Somme battlefield in which British troops had been engaged... over many parts, which specially moved me, such as Delville Wood, High Wood, Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, Thiepval & the Hawthorn Ridge, more times than I can remember. I came to know that blasted field as well as I know my own home..." In June 1917 Masefield returned to England to complete the book but was disappointed to be denied access to the military reports & war diaries required to write a history of stature; he therefore published his impressions of the Somme battlefield in "The Old Front Line" (Heinemann, 1917). Masefield explains in the preface to the work here offered: "I then attempted to write a account of the battle from what I had seen and heard, & had written as much as is here printed, when I was turned to other work, of another kind, many miles from Europe & the war." The manuscript was published by Heinemann in a single, numbered limited edition of 250 copies of which this is No. 62. Quite why it was published in this way is a matter for speculation. One would imagine that Masefield's reputation would have guaranteed a sale of some thousands of copies, but perhaps the publishers felt that with the end of the war they had 'missed the boat.' On the other hand, perhaps the limitation came from Masefield himself as the book was never quite what he originally wanted it to be, yet was perhaps prevailed upon not to allow his work to be wholly wasted so acquiesced to this compromise. In any case it remains the only edition except for a shoddy Chivers/Library Association reprint that appeared in 1968. The work is dedicated to Major The Hon. Neville Lytton, head of the French press mission at GHQ, who in his own memoirs (qv) describes Masefield's sojourn with his mission. Orig. qtr. mock vellum, blue paper covd. boards, a very nice clean copy, VG & rare, neatly inscribed in ink by the distinguished author: "We Fight. akka, akka, akka, forever & forever & forever. The ANZAC on the Somme. John Masefield." This copy gifted to Bryan Mawr College Library by David N. & Julia C. Ligon Mills in 1940, with small neat stamp labels recording this to front paste-down. See illustrations on our website.   £250


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