Inwards Where All the Battle Is, by Alun Lewis, from Gwasg Gregynog 1997

{Ed. Note: This is another outstanding contribution from Librarything user Celtic (Neil), whose first article on Books and Vines was on Palladio’s Homes}.

Alun Lewis, the finest Welsh poet of the second world war, was born on 1st July 1915 at Cwmaman, a South Wales mining village.  His father was a school teacher and his three brothers worked in the mines.  From a young age he felt that he was destined to be a writer.  He was educated at Cowbridge Grammar School and the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth.  He undertook postgraduate work at Manchester University and trained as a teacher.  He was unsuccessful in his wish to become a journalist and instead earned his living as a supply teacher.

As a boy Alun discovered the work of Edward Thomas and admired him throughout his life.  From a young age he had written poetry, maturing as a poet during 1939/1940 culminating with his first published collection, Raiders Dawn and Other Poems (1942), establishing him as one of the outstanding war poets.  A volume of short stories, The Last inspection, was also published that year.  His poetry and prose describes the effect new places had on him and the loneliness of military life.  He also wrote about love with extraordinary maturity, much of which was addressed to Gweno Ellis who he married in 1941.

Despite his belief in pacifism, he joined the Royal Engineers in 1940.  In 1942 he left for India and in 1944 he was moved to the Burmese front.  On his way he was killed in a mysterious incident involving his own pistol.

Inwards where all the battle is is a selection of Alun Lewis’s writings from India. The experience of a married man, cut off from home, family and friends – finding himself in India,  comes across as overwhelming.  This coherent collection of his poetry and prose written whilst he was in India during the World War II is judicially chosen and tells you much about Alun Lewis and how he views, and deals with, the situation he found himself in. The selection has been chose by Jeremy Hooker, who also contributes an introduction. The book is illustrated with drawings by David Gentleman.

About the Edition

  • Designed by David Esslemont and printed at Gregynog by David Vickers
  • The typeface is Monotype Perpetua
  • The paper is Zerkall mould-made
  • David Gentleman’s drawings were printed from line-blocks
  • This copy bound at Gregynog by Alan Wood in quarter-leather, with cloth boards and a cloth slipcase
  • 108pp.  255 X 160mm
  • The edition is limited to 300 copies signed by David Gentleman

Pictures

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Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Slipcase
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Cover and Spine
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Frontispiece and Title Page
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Contents
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Text #1
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
Inwards where all the battle is, Gwasg Gregynog, Colophon

6 thoughts on “Inwards Where All the Battle Is, by Alun Lewis, from Gwasg Gregynog 1997

  1. Couldn’t agree more dlphcoracl – the Golden Cockerel Mabinogion is one of the finest books I’ve seen. I think that Dorothea Braby has not only provided great illustrations, but they are more ‘in tune’ with this ancient text than any others, and the scale and design of the book matches the monumental text. You must treasure your copy. I’ve been looking for a copy in the right condition at the right price for a long time. I smiled when I read your message as it is probably the only ‘major’ book that I desperately want to own one day!

    Cheers,

    Neil

  2. Neil:

    The books that I found uniquely suited to a Welsh reading audience were titles such as: ‘Welsh Time’, ‘Pennant and his Welsh Landscapes’, ‘Eirene: A Tribute’, ‘Princes and Castles’, etc. Just about anything that is not highly specific to Wales is already in my library, including the ‘Poems of Goethe’, ‘Wrenching Times’ by Walt Whitman, ‘Mapping Golgotha’ by Wilfred Owens, and ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ by Stephen Crane. As mentioned, I overlooked the Alun Lewis work until I saw your article and post but I have since rectified that by ordering a copy from Gwasg Gregynog yesterday. Better late than never for a splendid work such as this.

    Incidentally, a book you should seek out, if not already in your extensive private press library, is the Golden Cockerel Press’ stunning edition of ‘The Mabinogion’ (1948). It was a new translation by Gwyn and Thomas Jone with 20 superb full page wood-engraving illustrations by Dorothea Braby, one of the Golden Cockerel’s finest illustrators. It was published in an edition of 550 with # 1-75 specially bound (in full leather, I assume). My copy has an orange brown quarter leather spine which is repeated along the full length of the front edges of both front and rear boards, a fine cream buckram cloth for the remainder of the boards, and an elaborate gilt decoration (Celtic, of course) enveloping a medieval knight with crossed swords, also designed by Braby. The paper is mould-made (hand made, I would assume, since it is quite fine), set in Caslon’s Old Face type, and composed and printed at the Chiswick Press. Well worth seeking out !!

  3. Dlphcoracl,

    You’re second last paragraph made a better job of describing the text than my three paragraphs!

    I share you’re opinions on Gregynog books – they are always beautifully designed and produced and I would describe them as understated and elegant. The Welsh content of most of their books appeals to me who has a Welsh mother and I have spent a fair bit of time in Wales.

    I think where it ‘works’ for people with less interest in Wales in when they publish someone like Wilfred Owen or Dylan Thomas who have an appeal beyond their national roots – but even then the illustrations are likely to be from an artist of international renown.

    Two examples of poets they have published from outside of Wales in recent times (I think you may have these?) are ‘Wrenching Times’ by Walt Whitman with the spectacular Shanilec engravings and the poems of Goethe.

    All the best,

    Neil

  4. Excellent post, one I am pleased to see reviewed since this is a book I had placed in my ‘want’s list’ for 2012. Gwasg Gregynog (GG) is one of my favorites amongst active private presses and the the GG titles I own all seem to have thoughtful book design, nice bindings, well-chosen illustrations, and the trademark fine typography which can trace its roots back to the original Gregynog Press. The only “problem” (if one can call it that) I have with GG is that many of their publications revolve about people past and present and places specific to Wales that are of limited interest to a non-Welsh audience. This book is one I have clearly missed the first time around.

    Judging from the numerous examples of text provided by Neil, this book seems to be an interesting combination of anti-war literature and travelogue. It is not anti-war in the same sense as ‘All Quiet On the Western Front’ or ‘The Red Badge of Courage’, which describe the horror and carnage of battle. Rather, it seems to eloquently describe the boredom, tedious daily routine, loneliness and disorientation of life in the military when one finds himself in a strange land away from family and friends. The descriptions of the people and places he encounters are fascinating and Lewis appears to be a keen and sensitive observer of life about him in India, more revealing than books which deliberately set out to be travelogues. Perhaps best of all, these experiences seem to be filtered and written about be a sensitive mind and wonderful author and poet.

    The many digital photo examples provided by ‘Celtic’ indicate that this book is another fine example of GG work — excellent book design and page layout making for a very readable book with a generous number of illustrations which perfectly complement Alun Lewis’ descriptive prose. I will clearly have to move this book up on my ‘want’s list’ and obtain it much sooner than later.

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