The Books That Don't Really Exist

Armed Services Editions "Made" Books











Let me explain this weird publishing phenomenon with a personal illustration. I collect James Thurber first editions. I own them all, including, of course, his first book: Is Sex Necessary?, which he co-authored with his friend, E.B. White, in 1929. What I do NOT own is a dust jacket for that book. I've never even seen one for sale. But I DO know what the dust jacket looks like. That's because I own the ASE. You see, there's a picture of the book on the cover of the corresponding Armed Services Edition. (If you're really interested, click here.)


Well, that's all fine and dandy. But the Council of Books in Wartime, the bunch of guys that decided which books to include in the ASE lineup, actually decided to include some books that had never been printed before. That's right: some real, honest-to-God paperback originals. Dr. John Y. Cole, the historian for the Library of Congress, called them "Made" books. They were, for the most part, compilations of stories and/or poems from some of America's best-loved authors that the Council put together themselves. Just a few are shown above and below.


But that led to another problem. Since the covers of the ASE's showed the original cover art of the hardbound books, what would they display on the covers of the ASE "Made" books? The answer, of course, is that they "made up" visual representations of the "made" books. There were no such books to begin with. The cover pictures depicted books that didn't really exist.