Antiquarian book dealers Alison and John Underwood are long-term organisers of this PBFA event, to be next held on Sunday July 13 at the Millennium Library in the heart of the city.
One of the Underwoods’ specialities is books by or about women and they currently have in stock a first edition of Sapper Dorothy Lawrence: The Only English Woman Soldier, published in 1919 and priced at £295.
This is an ultimately tragic tale of the idealistic lengths which one woman went to in the First World War to get to the front line.
Refused a voluntary posting because she was too young, a determined Lawrence acquired a uniform and took those drastic measures mentioned to alter her appearance.
With false identification papers she made for Albert, near Bethune in northern France, and became attached to the British Expeditionary Force which was digging tunnels and laying mines 400 yards from the front line. After 10 days it all became too much, however. An interview with her commanding officer, to whom she revealed her identity, led to Lawence being arrested and sent back to England.
After an accusation of rape against her church guardian, Lawrence was committed to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, where she died in 1964.
The book fair venue is, said John, “one of the most visited libraries in the country with a million annual footfall according to their figures. The fair takes place in the glass atrium of the building.”