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The Somme-Times [Henry Williamson's copy]

The Somme-Times [Henry Williamson's copy] by ROBERTS Lieut. Col. F J; Gilbert Frankau [Henry Williamson]  (1916)

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Author: ROBERTS Lieut. Col. F J; Gilbert Frankau [Henry Williamson]
Title: The Somme-Times [Henry Williamson's copy]
Year: 1916
Publisher: 'Sherwood, Forester & Co. Ltd'
Place: "Sommewhere" in France
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: Yes
Price: £1250
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A contributor's copy, owned by Gilbert Frankau who gave it the artist Gladys Peto who presented it to the writer and Great War veteran Henry Williamson around the time that he wrote his introduction to the 1973 facsinile of World War I Trench newspapers, The Wipers Times, which includes this publication.

Original printed wrappers in thick paper with an indecipherable pencilled ownership signature at the head of the upper cover which is soiled with what Williamson calls in an accompanying typed note as 'some genuine Somme mud'. Original sewing, printed contents very good. Cover and paper edges dog-eared but complete.

Accompanying this single issue is a typed note by Henry Williamson with a few emendations in his hand written in black biro. Williamson describes the transmission of this copy of the Somme-Times from Frankau to 'GLADYS PETO, now Mrs C.L. Emmerson. Gladys Peto was at this time illustrating a weekly Letter to the Troops.... Gladys Emmerson gave me "The Somme Times" as a Christmas present in 1972.' Both are contained within an envelope with the crossed-out address of Sir John Heygate, Williamson's lifelong friend on one side and Williamson's note of the title on the other in black marker pen.

Gilbert Frankau (1884-1952) who fought at Loos, Ypres and the Somme was a war poet and noted contributor to the trench newspapers who went on to have a successful literary career after the war. Henry Williamson's whole life was shaped by his experiences in the trenches. He received this copy of The Somme-Times shortly after completing his Chronicles of Ancient Sunlight sequence of novels which contains his most ambitious attempt to come to terms with his wartime experiences through the fictionalised persona of Phillip Maddison. All copies of the trench newspapers are scarce.

Henry Williamson noted in his diary on January 14, 1973 that 'A publishing company in London want me to write a Foreword to proposed book of number of The Wipers Times – quarterly home-printed jokes etc. Produced on an old printing machine found in Ypres in 1917. I accepted this job . . . I am to have £75 for the Wipers foreword.'

The publication of The Wipers Times and its successors has become one of the legends of the First World War. After finding a printing press and limited type in the ruins of Ypres Captain Roberts and his fellow Sherwood Foresters produced a short run of satirical newspapers, probably in editions of 1-200. This single issue of The Somme Times (the only one produced) notes on the title page that it incorporates 'The Wipers Times and The "New Church" Times' and on the lower cover records, mockingly, that it was 'Printed and published by Sherwood, Forester & Co., Ltd. "Sommewhere" in France.'
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