Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 [series cover title of the complete twelve-volume set]
Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1921 to 1942 [ALL FIRST EDITIONS, respectively 1921, 1924, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942, 1923, 1923, 1928, 1927, 1936 and 1923].
Octavo, twelve volumes, each approximately 700 pages with numerous maps plus plates.
Maroon cloth with inconsequential occasional light marks and signs of handling, with only the following points to note: the top edge of one volume is foxed; the leading edge of another two volumes are lightly marked; top corners of yet another two are a little bumped; three spines are a little sunned or have some uneven loss of colour; Volumes 8, 9, 10 and 12 are a little stained at the foot of the spine (visible but not unsightly); overall a very presentable set indeed. The ownership details of J.A. Mitchelson, Eudunda, are written in ink in all bar Volumes 5 and 6, the last two published (in 1937 and 1942 respectively), leading us to suggest he was an original subscriber who died before the marathon publication job was completed. Surprisingly, the name does not appear in military service records.
The Australian Government accepted Charles Bean's 1919 recommendations for 'the official history and for a national war memorial which 'for all time' would 'hold the sacred memories of the AIF'.... Bean himself wrote six volumes about the infantry divisions: the two on Gallipoli, and four on France. He edited eight [sic] more, and he and a colleague annotated the volume of photographs.... The series contained nearly four million words. In Australian historical writing nothing had ever been done on such a scale; and there had been no military history anywhere quite like Bean's.... [He] brought a democratic and colonial scepticism to bear on the assumption that the dispatches of high commanders were the best source of information about what actually happened when men went into battle. His own diaries (226 note-books) were full of the evidence about 'what actual experiences, at the point where men lay out behind hedges or on the fringe of woods, caused those on one side to creep, walk, or run forward, and the others to go back'. Bean's approach differed from that of the British war historians, whose work was official not only in sponsorship but in texture: history written by generals, not by an honorary captain. The British volumes had no biographical footnotes of the sort that were essential to Bean's method because he wanted to show that the participants were 'a fair cross-section of our people ... that the company commander was a young lawyer and his second in command and most trusted mate a young engine driver and so on'' (Australian Dictionary of Biography). Dornbusch 209 (the complete set), 353 (Volumes 1 and 2), 294-297 (Volumes 3-6), 374 (Volume 10), 219 (Volume 11) and 223 (Volume 12); Fielding and O'Neill, page 208 (the complete set); Trigellis-Smith 725-36 (the complete set). Dornbusch provides useful information about dates of reprints and revised editions. Suffice to say, the rest is history ... Given the twenty-two years it took for the twelve volumes to be published, with many reprints along the way (some volumes being reprinted upwards of fifteen times), complete sets of first editions such as this one are rarely found, and in our experience, are even harder to put together from scratch. A small newspaper cutting, from an unidentified source but dated 23 February 1938, is mounted on the flyleaf of Volume 5 of the current set. The Official War History 'will be completed this year, when the last of 12 volumes ... will be published' (in fact, it took another four years). The short article goes on to state that 'to the end of the last financial year, the gross cost of the war history was £104,692, and the net cost, after deducting returns from sales and subscriptions, was £74,688. Of that total Dr Bean had received £14,313 in salary'. [12 items].