Its origins are a mystery, but the handmade volume discovered in a pile of unwanted books carefully records Bury St Edmunds’ dead of World War One.
It has now been made more widely available by John Crawford, a Bury based secondhand and antiquarian bookseller who found it and had a limited run of 50 exact facsimiles printed.
John said: “I am probably going to give the original book to the Suffolk Records Office, but was concerned that it could end up just being catalogued with a lot of other documents.
“I was always keen to ensure this book should be made available to a wider public.”
John says the original, with its typed pages, was well bound in vellum, probably by an amateur, and has a hand written cover.
The 28cm by 21.5cm cover is headed ‘To the Glorious Dead’ and, below Bury’s coat of arms, it adds: “In proud and thankful memory of the men from Bury St Edmunds who went to the Great War and laid down their lives in the cause of freedom 1914-1919.”
It is typed in alphabetical order with the person’s name, rank and regiment. Because it is alphabetical, you can quickly see the impact the war had on families because, even with uncommon surnames, there may be three or four together.
Whoever it belonged to was conscientious about it because they have added omitted names and, in a the same fine handwriting on a blank page, the names of people killed in Bury in a Zeppelin raid on April 1, 1916.
It came into John’s hands almost by accident when an elderly man, who was soon to be moving house, pleaded with him to go and look at his old books on one of the Bury housing estates.
“He had a table piled to here with books,” John recalled, indicating eye level. It was about a year before John had the chance to go through them, and this book was one of only a box full he kept.
The facsimile has been printed by Askprint Bury with advice from Trevor Elmer, whose grandfather Percy Elmer is listed in it.
John has donated copies to Suffolk Records Office and Moyse’s Hall Museum where heritage officer Ron Murrell said: “Because the book is about men who joined up from Bury, it’s not just about the Suffolk Regiment, it covers all the possibilities.
“So if somebody comes in and they only have a name, they can find the person’s regiment.”
That then makes it easier to trace that person’s war record, if it still exists.
John is selling copies at £18.50 each from the Risby Barn Antiques Centre but says he will give spare copies to any Bury schools or history societies that can make use of them.
He is also planning a facsimile of a 22-page history called ‘The 8th Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment 1915-1918’.