NAVAL INTELLIGENCE DIVISION. France. Volume I Physical Geography [Volume II History and Administration. Volume III Economic Geography. Volume IV Ports and Communications]. [Cambridge, UP, printed under the Authority of HMSO], June 1942-October, 1943.
Four volumes, 8vo. Original Royal Air Force grey-blue cloth, spines and front covers lettered and ruled in gilt; highly illustrated with maps, plates and diagrams, one large colour-printed map in rear pocket; cloth a little spotted and marked and spines unevenly faded, internally very good;provenance: from the library of the Imperial Agricultural Bureau with their stamps to front endpapers, volume II with number inscribed on front cover.
First edition of one of the rarest complete sets of the series, restricted. Probably one of the best-researched books of the time on the country, with contributions on agriculture, population, topography, economics, climate, transport, in short, every aspect - and more - the military was supposed to know about France during the liberation from Fascism and the Nazis. 'A series of intelligence handbooks produced during the First World War had proved valuable both during the conflict and as subsequent reference sources. Early in the Second World War the Director of Naval Intelligence ordered the preparation of a new and improved series to meet the requirements of the day. The Handbooks were designed to provide, in the words of the Preface, "for the use of Commanding Officers, information in a comprehensive and convenient form about countries which they may be called upon to visit, not only in war but in peace-time; secondly, to maintain the high standard of education in the Navy and, by supplying officers with material for lectures ... to ensure for all ranks that visits to a new country shall be both interesting and profitable"' (Cambridge Archive Editions, who reproduce a few titles on the series, online). The four France volumes where prepared by the Cambridge sub-centre of the Naval Intelligence Division under the directorship of Sir James Mann Wordie (1889-1962) who, before fighting in France during the last years of the First World War had been chief of the scientific staff of Shackleton's arduous 1914 Antarctic expedition.
The rarity of complete sets is due to the fact that with D-day these volumes were issued to military units, split into single volumes and used by thousands. We once handled the four France volumes collected by the British author Alan Sillitoe, who, in the 1970s, had to make up a set from different sources.