Hold History in Your Hands

This year marks the centenary of the end of World War One. To mark the occasion HarperCollins has brought to life these tangible pieces of ANZAC history to hold in your hand and treasure.

The Pocket Editions for the Trenches by Australia’s most popular balladeers – Banjo Paterson, C. J. Dennis and Will H. Ogilvie – were published by Angus & Robertson between 1916 and 1918 and designed to fit into the pockets of a soldier’s trench jacket. And they were bought in the thousands by families and sweethearts to send to their men at the front.

These eight gorgeous small hardbacks have been reissued almost exactly as the originals were 100 years ago, with special ‘trench’ jackets, beautifully illustrated regular jackets, exquisite endpapers, delightful internal illustrations (by leading artists Norman Lindsay, Lionel Lindsay and Hal Gye), and liveried in the publisher’s canny publicity claims of the day. These are objects to handle and to love.

The project was made possible through the assistance of the State Library of New South Wales and Dr Neil James, writer, editor and Australian book collector. Neil James is the foremost authority on the history of Angus & Robertson – or Anzac & Robertson, as the company was known for its astute patriotic publishing.

Rio Grande and Other VersesRio Grande and Other Verses was published in 1917, when Banjo Paterson was himself was on active service in the Middle East. It includes poems such as ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’, ‘The Road to Gundagai’ and ‘Song of the Federation’, and features illustrations by Hal Gye.




The Man From Snowy River

The Man From Snowy River, published in 1917 while Banjo Paterson was on active duty in the Middle East, includes his arguably most famous ballad. Some of the verses, as a note from Paterson points out, had never been published prior to the Pocket Edition edition, which made it an especially exciting publishing event for a war-shocked public.




Saltbush Bill J.P.Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, with illustrations by Lionel Lindsay, was published in 1917, when Banjo Paterson was himself was on active service in the Middle East. It includes poems such as ‘Saltbush Bill on the Patriarchs’ (for some biblical wisdom), ‘The Wisdom of Hafiz’ (some advice to take to the races), and one of Paterson’s most famous ballads, ‘Waltzing Matilda’.



The Australian and Other VersesPoet and horseman Will Ogilvie retained his affection for Australia and Australians long after he returned to his native Scotland. His most famous poem, ‘The Australian’, commemorates the courage shown by Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, and bears the immortal epigraph: ‘The bravest thing God ever made’.




Digger Smith

One of C. J. Dennis’s most poignant books of verse, Digger Smith recalls a singing soldier from The Moods of Ginger Mick, who returns from Gallipoli to become the country neighbour of Doreen and the Bloke (The Sentimental Bloke). In true Dennis style it is told with wisdom, humour and pathos.




The Sentimental BlokeIn the rough Australian vernacular that became his signature style, C. J. Dennis tells the story of the courtship and marriage of larrikin Bill and the lively Doreen. The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke was Dennis’s most successful and popular book of verse. In its various editions it has sold nearly 300,000 copies and has been made into a silent film, a sound film, a stage play and a musical. The 1916 Pocket Edition had an initial print run of 10,000 copies.



The Moods of Ginger MickThe Moods of Ginger Mick was C. J. Dennis’s follow-up to his phenomenally successful The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. In Dennis’s signature vernacular, it tells the story of Mick, a likeable rogue and friend of Bill (the Sentimental Bloke). Answering the call to arms for King and Country, Mick leaves behind his love, Rose, to go to the battlefields of Gallipoli. Dennis’s verse is full of humour and pathos and truly captures the spirit of the era.



The Glugs of GoshThis book of satirical verse about the inhabitants of ‘Gosh’ was the work C. J. Dennis considered his best. It is a sly take-down of the kings, politicians, judges and the elite of Gosh, who demonstrate all too well the frailties and petty preoccupations of humanity as Dennis saw it. Like Dennis’s other books, 1917 Pocket Edition was illustrated by Hal Gye.




Posted on April 17, 2018 by

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"Hold History in Your Hands"5 thoughts on
  • I am keen to see some of these precious editions – for conversation on “The Blurb”, my weekly books show on Geelong community radio [ 2-4pm Tuesdays at 94.7fm THE PULSE and streaming at http://www.947thepulse.com]
    Bernard P Ryan
    PO Box 140
    Drysdale 3222

  • Courtney Lockwood says:

    Where in Australia will these ne available to buy?

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Courtney,

      They are available in all good bookshops and online. If you have trouble finding them in store, you can always ask your local bookseller to order them in for you.

      Hope that helps.

      All best,
      HCP Team Digital

  • Gary Harding says:

    I have purchased the entire set of eight. They are magnificient and a credit to you. I am finalising production of a huge (and magnificient!) public classic Bush Poetry Exhibition and your new books will have their own well-earned place in it. Included will also be a spot featuring A&R, the supporting artists such as the Lindsays, and the individuals and groups who assisted the great bush poets. Congratulations on a wonderful publishing achievement.

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