BKAS ESSAY SHORTS No. 5 (February 2021)

Book Advertising with a Cause: Publications of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR)*

Peter Robinson (Japan Woman’s University)

The Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR), was founded in 1925 to, “study the Pacific Peoples and their mutual relations”. It represented, as Sean Phillips has argued, “a distinct, formative attempt to consider and collaborate on regional issues” (Phillips, 2018), but its significance and impact has been grossly underestimated by scholars since its closure in 1967. It was the offspring of a two-week programme of events held at Oahu College in Honolulu in July 1925, in which all parties interested in the Pacific were invited to participate, including missionaries, business leaders, and academics. Delegates were encouraged to speak frankly and honestly, and in the main, did so. The organization quickly became:

…the single most important resource for information and the latest research regarding the Asia-Pacific region published in the English language. Over thirteen conferences held at locations as diverse as Kyoto (1929) and Lahore (1958) were held, where minds met and thinking [was] shared, leaving a lasting impression upon delegates. 

Phillips, 2018

At a time when geopolitical tensions in the region were becoming more acute, the organization attracted significant funding and support from a range of organizations and private individuals. Figure 1 shows a list of Corporations, Funds, and Foundations supporting the IPR at the time of its 21st Anniversary in 1946. 

Figure 1

The present BKAS Essay Short analyses the advertising materials produced by the IPR for its books, pamphlets and periodicals, based on a small cache of advertising material donated by Prof. Peter O’Connor (Emeritus) to the Shadowlands Archive. It provides an opportunity to analyze advertising for printed products that does not have profit as its primary motive, unlike the case with commercial publishing houses. As relationships in the region soured, and regional and global powers became increasingly directly involved, the IPR positioned itself as a “neutral” arbiter of events, offering a range of outputs from its members in more than ten countries. In the years 1941-1946 the IPR published 120 books on social, political and economic problems, and distributed more than two million pamphlets to schools, colleges, and the US Army and Navy, making it one of the most important shapers of views about the Pacific.  It also published two journals, the Far Eastern Survey a bi-weekly periodical, and Pacific Affairs, a quarterly journal that showcased the latest high-quality research from academics in member countries. 

During the war, the tone of its advertising inevitably changed, and procurement of the print output of the IPR was cast as virtually a patriotic duty. “Now as never before” an IPR advertising pamphlet intoned, “accurate knowledge on the countries and problems of the Far East and the Pacific is essential if we are to appreciate the immense issues at stake”.1 In the post-war period, in a very direct challenge to the prevailing intellectual environment on American campuses during the McCarthy period, a social and globalist tone emerged in advertisements, eventually leading to the disbanding of the Institute. But in addition to the rhetoric employed within the advertisements, they also offer the opportunity to see how the materiality of advertisements, their size, shape, and design can, often through similitude, reinforce the product being advertised, just as with any other product. 

Advertising formats employed in printed book advertising for the IPR 

Throughout its existence, the IPR deployed a range of different advertising strategies, which reflected its complex and prolific textual output, including monographs, whole books series, and a huge output of pamphlets, as well as acting as agents for other publishing houses, most notably Chicago Press and the Oxford University Press. In targeted direct mailing campaigns, the IPR regularly updated members with new titles, offering discounts, and emphasizing the interrelatedness of their list. Figure 2 shows a rare surviving letter from the Institute to its members offering regular publication updates. 

Figure 2

Materiality and advertising formats

The IPR utilised a wide range of printed advertising material, ranging from the industry-common single page flier, through to concertina booklets and at its most creative, half dust-jackets. Single page and single sheet fliers tended to be used for advertising a specific book, while booklets were used to advertise a series, a list, or a  a combination of the two. 

Dust-jacket Advertising

Advertising on dust-jackets has a long history.2 By the early twentieth century, it was common for publishers to utilize parts of the dust-jacket on their books to promote other titles in their list. However, in advertising for their books, the IPR used half-dustjackets (a single sheet with a flap) as a form of flier. There were two variants: a pseudo dust-jacket in which the form was purely mimetic (see Figure 3), and as a form of product sample which closely followed the final form, layout, design, colour, and texture of the printed book’s real dustjacket, giving readers a material sense of what the book would feel like in their hands (see Figure 4). Sometimes an abridged version of the title page was used, on other occasions the dust-jacket itself. This is not altogether surprising, given that the use of product samples, sometimes miniaturized, in advertising and door-to-door sales was a widespread practice in the American consumer market. It was especially used for domestic products, a method famously depicted in Arthur Miller’s masterpiece Death of a Salesman (1949). 

Figure 3 shows a dustjacket flier for the book North Pacific Fisheries (1939) by Homer E. Gregory and Kathleen Barnes, no. 3 in the IPR’s Studies of the Pacific Series. In its information and typography, the front reflects the title page of the book itself, with the addition of a laudatory quote by Benjamin H. Kizer. On the flap, much like on real dust-jackets of the period, there is a description of the contents of the book, and on the reverse flap, brief biographical information about the authors. At the bottom, a small order form. The extra page space (normally concealed by the text block on a full dustjacket), is used to provide advertising for other titles in the Studies of the Pacific Series. The advertisement is effective in not only allowing readers to visualize the product, but also in using the well-established physical architecture of the dust-jacket as a way of compartmentalizing information. The paper used for the advertisement is of thick stock —probably the same as the final dust-jacket—and finally, there is the very clever colour selection, an attractive salmon pink, which given the subtitle of the book: “With Special Reference to Alaska Salmon” creates similitude between content and form. While it has not been possible to consult a first edition of this title with its dust-jacket still present, a study of the fidelity of the advertising dust-jacket to the final dust jacket would be instructive. 

Figure 3
Figure 4

The second example of this form of book advertising used by the IPR is for the book Fijian Frontier (1940) by Laura Thompson. This dust-jacket advertisement flier has greater fidelity to the finally published dust-jacket than the previous example, and is virtually an off-print. Figure 4, shows that the order form is no longer present on the inside flap, while the list of related titles is retained, which presumably appeared on the back side of the full dust-jacket. The final price of the book is even present on the upper corner of the flap “$2”. On the inside flap at the bottom it is noted that, “The ornamental design on this jacket is taken from the coconut leaf plaiting around the main post of a Lau islands house”. The design, typography, and colour are all retained in the finally published dust jacket. In addition to the advertising advantages accrued from this sample-based advertising approach, there is also the advantage of considerable cost savings. 

Book Lists

A form of book advertising hybrid between a publisher's book lists organized on the basis of publication date, as in the advertising booklet for the IPR Inquiry Series (Figures 5 & 6), or based on topics, is the publication of recommended or curated reading lists. Such lists were present in newspapers from the turn of the century, and formed part of the growing status and expanding influence of the librarian as a cultural and intellectual public figure. In newspapers, such interventions were often based along gender lines, including articles such as “100 best books for boys”, or formed part of the “gift-book” sensation that surrounded the Christmas period.3 In the case of the IPR two good examples of curated book lists survive. The two four-page leaflets produced in 1930 and 1935 respectively: “Japan: A list of books to further an understanding of her position in the world today” (1930) in green, and the similarly titled “China: A contemporary list of books to further an understanding of its position in the world today” printed on yellow paper (Figures 7 & 8). The lists, compiled by the IPR Library Committee staff, represent a selection of modern titles, arranged in alphabetical order. Interestingly, they do not include any IPR publications. It would be unthinkable for a commercial publisher to promotes the literary products of “competitors” in this way.

Figure 5
Figure 6
Figure 7
Figure 8

IPR Inquiry Series

The primary aim of the IPR was to bring together views regarding the Pacific Area based on factual information and concrete scholarship. One of its flagship series was a series of monographs called the “Inquiry Series” marketed as “An important group of basic new studies on the conflict in the Far East by important authorities”. The 1941 advertising material emphasized the impartiality of the series, positioning itself as a fair broker of opinions. The leaflet for the first quarter of 1941 carried the following disclaimer: “The Inquiry does not propose to ‘document’ a specific plan for dealing with the Far Eastern Situation. It does not plead any cause. Its aim is to assemble, in well-organized, useable and impartial form, the background facts that will have to be considered if a lasting settlement is to be achieved in the Pacific”. (Inquiry, Q1 1941). 

The eight-page concertina format of the leaflet is also interesting. Its physical connectedness emphasizes the intellectual links between publications in the series in a way that could not be achieved in a standard booklet format. Unlike the recommended reading lists organized on a geographical basis which emphasized cultural elements, the portmanteau of the Inquiry Series focused on the economic, political, and social conditions in the Pacific as a theatre of conflict. The notion of Inquiry, was itself a way of rhetorically reinforcing the idea of its independence, fairness, and freedom from national partisanship, leading to a “work of the highest impartial, objective scholarship”.4 The list was organized on the basis of when each book was published, containing a brief summary of its contents, as well as providing price and length information. In addition, forthcoming publications were listed by title, and “Related IPR Studies”. The leaflets had blue order forms inserted. Not only did this allow the readers to send in the orders without ruining the pamphlet, but also to update the list regularly at minimum expense.   


One of the perennial problems concerning Pacific Studies has been defining the Pacific area precisely. Sean Phillips devotes some space to this in his piece on the IPR, showing how it was a question just as relevant back then as it is today. Thinking in merely geographical terms proves insufficient to capture the political, ethnic, and cultural spatialities and discourses involved with this study, especially in an age of shifting borders and challenges to the notion of supra-territoriality. Nevertheless, one effective tool in helping the reader grasp what was meant by the Pacific area was the use maps. They provided a way of quickly orientating the reader, without being forced into a definition which both excludes and includes, providing room for a necessary ambivalence and liminality.  Take for example, advertising for the IPR's Inquiry Series (Figure 9). The front page of the two examples used in this study, featured a map of the Pacific area. The monochrome image (red and blue respectively) centres on the Pacific Ocean, around which countries are labelled indistinctly. It is impossible to distinguish dominions and territories. The IPR leaflet celebrating its 21st Anniversary, also uses map, but it is much more stylized, its focus reduced to China, Japan, and Australia (Figure 10). Political delineation is entirely absent here, and the land masses are highly impressionistic. It is an intentional neutrality, and reminiscent of the blank globe donated to Tokyo Imperial University Library in 1937, following the Library’s destruction by the firestorm that accompanied the Great Kanto Earthquake on the 1September, 1923.  On the gift from Belgium, the political boundaries were left to be filled in by the recipient, but were not done so until after the war. Hisayo Suzuki has suggested that the globe’s blankness was a “silent warning to Japan”,5 but it seems more likely to have been a good example of cartographic diplomacy. An earlier example of the visual power of maps in this period is the cover for The Times’s Japanese Supplement, No. 5 produced in 1916, which bore a map showing the Empire of Japan. Returning to the IPR’s advertising, on a four-page advertisement for Thailand: The New Siam (1941) by Virginia Thompson a map reduced from the book itself is used in a similar way to the IPR Inquiry Series, allowing the reader rapid orientation (Figure 11). 

Figure 9
Figure 11
Figure 10

The IPR Seal

The majority of the IPR’s many book advertisements were conventional single-sheet fliers, printed on thin, cheap paper in roughly A5 size with an order form on the back. They were text-based and information-oriented. A key feature, however, was the prominence of the IPR’s logo, in the form of a seal which incorporated the Institute’s acronym IPR (Figure 12). Its presence acted as a seal of approval, a form of authorization and quality guarantee. It rhetorically unified the IPR’s publications, but also gave the reader confidence that the work advertised met the Institute’s high scholarly standards of impartiality. Such devices were part of the paraphernalia of advertising that emerged in the late nineteenth century, and could be used on everything from cornflakes to quack medicine. 

Figure 12
Figure 13


This short essay has brought to the discussion table some interesting examples of book advertising related to a specific field and a specific organization in a narrow period. It has touched upon the creativity and innovation inherent within book advertising, making use of physical format, visualities, and textual rhetoric.  Some of the advertising techniques were borrowed from the advertising lexicon of commercial publishers and reflected more widespread marketing techniques prevalent in the US at the time. Without the profit motive, however, the IPR was able to exhibit a greater generosity in its marketing of books and periodicals which it did not itself produce, but which nevertheless came under its “auspices”. This cooperation, for example with Oxford University Press (see Figure 13) would have been simply impossible between commercial competitors.  

*I am indebted to Prof. Peter O’Connor (Emeritus) for the generous donation of this archival material. 


Phillips, S. “A Pacific Precedent: The Institute of Pacific Relations in the Emergence of Asia-Pacific Studies”, Asia Dialogue.com (27 June, 2018). 

Robinson, P. “Gifts for the Season” BKAS Essay Shorts No. 2 (1 April, 2020).

Smith, M. J. “The dust-jacket considered”, CeROArt [Online], 9, 2014, URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/3786; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ceroart.3786 (accessed 26 March, 2021).

“21 Years of IPR” (n.d. [1946], np). Pamphlet. 


Book, pamphlet, and periodical advertisements for IPR

Dust-jacket advertisements 

“Fijian Frontier” by Lara Thompson, [New York]: American Council, IPR, n.d. 

“North Pacific Fisheries”, [New York]: American Council, IPR, n.d.

Single-sheet fliers

“Industrial Japan: Aspects of Recent Economic Changes as Viewed by Japanese Writers”, New York: Secretariat, IPR (1941). pp. 1-2. Flier. 

“A French View of the Netherlands Indies by G.H. Bousquet”, [New York]: American Council, IPR, n.d. pp. 1-2. Flier. 

“Filipino Plantation Workers in Hawaii by Edna Clark Wentworth”, New York: American Council, IPR (1941), pp. 1-2. Flier. 

“Economic Shanghai: Hostage to Politics by Robert W. Barnett”, New York: Secretariat, IPR (1941), pp. 1-2. Flier.

“Emigrant Communities in South China by TA Chen”, New York: American Council, IPR, n.d. pp. 1-2. Flier. 

“Pacific Islands Under Japanese Mandate by Tadao Yanihara”, New York: Oxford University Press, n.d. pp. 1-2. Flier. 

“Japan and the Opium Menace by Frederick T. Merrill”, International Secretariat IPR & Foreign Policy Association (April, 1942), pp. 1. Flier.

“Economic Survey of the Pacific Area”, New York: International Secretariat, IPR, n.d. pp. 1-2. Flier. 

Multi-page/Multi-book advertisements 

“The Far East Is Nearer than You Think”, American Council, IPR [c. 1942], pp. 1-6. Pamphlet. 

“New Far Eastern Pamphlets”, American Council, IPR pp. 1-2. Pamphlet. 

“Thailand The New Siam by Virginia Thompson”, IPR n.d. Q1 1942. Pamphlet. 

Series Advertising 

“The I.P.R. Inquiry Series” (American Council, IPR) [pp. 1-8] [n.d. Q1, 1941]. Pamphlet. 

“The I.P.R. Inquiry Series” (American Council, IPR) [pp. 1-8] [Q3, 1941], with order form insert. Pamphlet.

“Important Group of Basic New Studies on the Conflict in the Far East by Outstanding Authorities”, New York: American Council, IPR [Q1, 1940], pp. 1-4, with order form insert. Pamphlet. 

Reading Lists (issued by IPR)

“Japan: A List of Books to further an Understanding of Her Position in the World Today”, San Francisco: Library Committee, IPR (1930), pp. 1-4. Pamphlet.

“China: A Contemporary List of Books to Further an Understanding of Its Position in the World Today”, San Francisco: Library Committee, IPR (1935), pp. 1-4. Pamphlet. 

“Agrarian China: Selected Source Materials from Chinese Authors”, University of Chicago Press: Distributed by IPR, [n.d.], pp. 1-4. Pamphlet. 

Reposted and reformatted 30 January 2023.

 1.The Far East Is Nearer than You Think, American Council, IPR [c. 1942], p. 6. 

2. For a good general outline history of the dustjacket, see Margit J Smith, “The dust-jacket considered”, CeROArt [Online], 9, 2014, Online since 12 January 2014, connection on 26 March 2021. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ceroart/3786; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/ceroart.3786

3. For a discussion of this phenomenon, see Peter Robinson, “Literary Gifts for the Season: Book advertising in The Times’s Christmas Books Supplement, 1909-1919, BKAS Essay Shorts (April, 2018) https://bkas.org/essay_shorts/bkas-essay-shorts-march-2018-peter-robinson/ (accessed 27 March 2021). 

4.The I.P.R. Inquiry Series (American Council, IPR) [pp. 1-8] [n.d. Q1, 1941]. 

5.Cited in “Large Globe Houses at Intermiatheque”, https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/whyutokyo/indpt_globe_019.html (accessed 28 March 2021).