Council on Books in Wartime

Variant names

Hide Profile

The Council on Books in Wartime was an organization established during World War II by a group of American publishers, booksellers, authors, and librarians for the purpose of mobilizing the book industry behind the war effort in the interest of military and civilian morale.

From the description of Council on Books in Wartime archives, 1942-1945. (Princeton University Library). WorldCat record id: 81511856

The Council on Books in Wartime was a non-profit organization founded by booksellers, publishers, librarians, authors, and others, in the spring of 1942 to channel the use of books as “weapons in the war of ideas,” the Council's motto. Its primary aim was the promotion of books to influence the thinking of the American people regarding the war, to build and maintain the will to win, to expose the true nature of the enemy, to disseminate technical information, to provide relaxation and inspiration, and to clarify war aims and problems of peace.

The Council consisted of a Board of Directors, with Archibald Ogden as Executive Director (1943-1945), and an Executive Committee, with W. W. Norton as Chairman (1943-1945), succeeded by Richard L. Simon, and various other members including John Farrar, S. Spencer Scott, Henry Hoyns, Bennett Cerf, Joseph Lippincott, Clarence Boutell, William Sloan and Datus C. Smith. Various committees worked under the Executive Committee, including the Radio Committee, Forum and Fairs Committee, Motion-Picture Committee, Library Committee, Recommended War Books Committee, Childrens Book Committee, Imperative Book Committee, Promotion and Press Committees, and the Washington Committee. The Council co-operated with the Office of War Information (OWI) and other Government agencies, but was itself a voluntary, unpaid, non-Governmental organization.

The Council attempted to achieve its goals by acting as a clearinghouse for book-related ideas, by being an intermediary between the book-trade industry and government agencies, by offering advice to publishers, and by handling all forms of public relations including distribution of reading lists and pamphlets, lectures, radio programs, newsreels, and book promotion and publication.

Two subsidiary organizations sprang from the Council on Books in Wartime, the Armed Services Editions (ASE) and Overseas Editions, Inc. (OEI). Armed Services Editions founded in February 1943 sought to alleviate the shortage of reading matter for men in the Services by publishing inexpensive paperbound books in pocket size to sell to the United States Government, at cost, and then distributing these to servicemen overseas. The books were primarily current publications, recreational in nature, including popular novels, some classics, books on the war, other non-fiction, humor and anthologies. In 1944 ASE incorporated as Editions for the Armed Services, Inc. to protect its funds in the event of lawsuits. Personnel and management however, remained the same.

ASE selected books to be reprinted from publishers' lists through a committee including John Farrar, Jennie Flexner, Mark Van Doren and Amy Loveman. These selections were subsequently approved for publication by representatives from the Army (Ray L. Trautman), and the Navy (Isabel Du Bois). Philip Van Doren Stern was manager of the ASE. From its beginning in the fall of 1943 to its post-war end in the fall of 1947 ASE printed 1,324 titles and delivered 122,951,031 books to the U. S. Government.

Overseas Editions, Inc. intended to publish translations of American books to distribute to civilians in overseas countries liberated by Allied troops in order to inform the people of Europe about America, democracy, and current events. Its management committee members were Stanley Rinehart, William Sloane and Marshall A. Best, who served under the direction of Archibald Ogden. The choice of books for OEI was made by the Office of War Information and approved by the same advisory committee serving the ASE. The books were printed in pocket book format and sold at prevailing retail prices. Between February and November, 1945 OEI published 72 titles (22 in English, 22 in French, 23 in German, and 5 in Italian) and shipped 3,636,074 volumes overseas.

With the end of the war the Council on Books in Wartime ceased active operations on Jan. 31, 1946, but maintained its corporate entities to deal with the dispersal of remaining funds and the safekeeping of records.

From the guide to the Council on Books in Wartime Records, 1942-1947, (Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Sloane, William M. (William Milligan), 1906-1974. Selected papers of William M. Sloane, 1931-1979. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Council on Books in Wartime. Council on Books in Wartime archives, 1942-1945. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Council on Books in Wartime, inc. Collection of Armed Services editions of popular novels / published by the Council on Books in Wartime, inc., New York. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
referencedIn Melcher, Frederic G. (Frederic Gershom), 1879-1963. PUBLISHERS' WEEKLY collection, 1933-1945. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Papers concerning the Armed Services Editions [manuscript] 1953-19 University of Virginia. Library. Special Collections Dept.
creatorOf Council on Books in Wartime Records, 1942-1947 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Public Policy Papers.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Armed Services Editions, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Overseas Editions, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Sloane, William M. (William Milligan), 1906-1974. person
associatedWith Stern, Philip Van Doren, 1900-1984. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Publishers and publishing
Publishers and publishing
American history/20th century
Book industries and trade
Book industries and trade
History publishing
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War II

Corporate Body

Active 1942

Active 1945



Ark ID: w63n61bg

SNAC ID: 68193342