On 30 May 1940 the MoI had written to the Ministry of Supply and the Treasury spelling out its own paper requirements, but also arguing that book publishers should receive preferential treatment: ‘The Ministry [had] reason to fear that if publishers were placed on a par with other non-official users of paper, the effect would be a disproportionate check on the production of books.’1 It was their value for purposes of public morale and long-term propaganda that prompted this apparently generous gesture. According to the accompanying notes, ‘It has been understood that the Ministry will have to charge to its allocation all independent publications to which it gives its support, and in some cases these may be very heavy.’ This explains why ‘paper is more vitally important to the Ministry of Information than to any other Department’. There were two ways in which the book trade might receive MoI ‘support’: ‘Paper used for publications printed by outside publishers of which the Ministry buys the whole or part for its own purposes; and paper used for books and pamphlets printed by outside publishers and sold through commercial channels with the encouragement or at the instigation of the Ministry’, a category under which at that time the MoI was asking the Ministry of Supply for 620 tons of paper. Publishers were still fighting for survival, yet there was no doubt within the MoI that books had cultural and symbolic value, nor that they were an effective means of boosting morale and discreetly spreading propaganda.
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