London-based book consultants and publishers Extraordinary Editions creates special hand-made limited-edition books. It compiles rare and unreleased historical documents — maps, diaries, letters, illustrations — and binds them into compendiums using historically and artistically relevant finishes. Director Martin Morgan says of the firm’s award-winning Waterloo 1815 anthology, which marks the anniversary of the famous battle: “We tried to commemorate the events of June 1815 using the words of those who were there in a book that itself reflected the publishing of that time.” The book thus bears on its binding an embroidered design of the Tricolour, and British and Prussian flags, with ribbon coloured to match the Waterloo medal.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Special Air Service, Extraordinary Editions released a limited run of the SAS War Diary 1941–1945, a hitherto unpublished secret collection of documents made by a former SAS soldier in 1946, bequeathed to the SAS Regimental Association before his death. What is remarkable for us looking at this collection today is the documents’ significant historical importance; were it not for one soldier’s conscious decision to begin gathering contemporary evidence of the SAS’s work and campaigns, the efforts and achievements of its soldiers would have remained unrecorded in history. Proceeds from the sale will go to the SAS Regimental Association, to maintain the welfare of its members.
The original diary itself contains the top-secret order authorising the first-ever SAS operation among its compendium of now declassified photographs, maps, reports and campaigns, including operations in Europe for D-Day, as well as contemporary newspaper articles and correspondences, weighing in total more than 25lbs and bound in leather ‘liberated’ from Nazi Germany. By painstakingly compiling this primary evidence, this soldier effectively created a comprehensive history of the SAS. Reproduced in facsimile by Extraordinary Editions, for readers today interested in the SAS, there is perhaps no more vivid way to look into the real experiences and sacrifices made by its soldiers.
The aim in binding the facsimile edition as faithfully as possible to the original diary — replicating the original’s traditionally made leather binding over wood composite boards — is to pay full respect to the human and historical significance of its contents. As such, 1,000 copies have been reserved for members of the armed forces and wider services family, as well as military institutions and libraries. Such is its importance as a historical resource that celebrated historical author Ben Macintyre has used it as a major source of material for his latest work, Rogue Heroes, to be adapted by the BBC for television.
A highly limited Exemplary Edition of the SAS War Diary has been created especially for supporters of the regiment and bibliophiles. Rather than printed facsimile, each photograph is stuck in by hand to best resemble the original scrapbook and, in addition to its presentation box’s silk matching the regiment’s Cambridge and Oxford blue colours, the volume is encased in a solid wooden ammunition box. The whole package serves as a documentary resource both in written content and aesthetic feel, designed to mark the vivacity of the accounts with exemplary, historically relevant, materials.
Following the success of the SAS War Diary, Extraordinary Editions has been asked by the RAF Museum to select material from its archives to celebrate the centenary of its founding in 2018. The upcoming Royal Air Force book will be made in five versions, each representing an iconic aircraft of the last 100 years, and signed by pilots and crew. Once again, a large slice of profits will go to the Royal Air Forces Association to help provide welfare support to the RAF family. On a level parallel to the SAS Exemplary Edition, a run of 26 lettered copies will be made, each with a piece of aircraft wing from an aircraft that fought in combat embedded in the cover. For book lovers, history lovers, or anyone interested in the stories of those who served in combat, this is charitable giving at its highest level of artistry.