The crucial aspect of giving a Great War book as a present is choosing it. The worst thing you can do is guess. Giving a Great War book case a book he (rarely she) already has or doesn’t want on his shelf is as bad as giving him a book that isn’t about the First World War, or about some other war. The typical collector will only be too pleased to be told of your generous desire to fill the gap he’s been waiting to fill the moment a nice copy of Radetzky March or The Weary Road drops into his lap. So that’s your first step. Ask him what he wants. Write down the bibliographic details (publisher, date, place of publication, etc.) exactly as given. Better still, get your Intended Recipient (IR) to write them down. It will whet his sense of anticipation.
Next, at your leisure, go online and track down the title you’ve been given in the edition required. Remember, the time and effort you expend on its acquisition is part of its value. As far as the actual cost of the book is concerned, you do not have to choose the most expensive example. However, it must been in at least Very Good condition, without the mark of any previous collector and preferably in a jacket that is also in VG condition, ie. not price-clipped. Never give a scruffy book as a present and never an ex-lib example. If the only copy you can find is a Good or ex-lib example, check back with your IR. He will be only too happy to let you know where he stands on points affecting the condition of second-hand books.
When you have obtained your book a certain etiquette pertains to handing it over. It is perfectly acceptable, as mentioned above, to inform your IR while he is unwrapping your gift, of how much time and effort you have invested in the search. Even if the search was dead easy, you are allowed to elaborate. Book collectors tend to enjoy anecdotes about book collecting, although most people don’t. It is also polite, when your IR is admiring your opened present to his gloating satisfaction, to ask, ever so casually, what the book is about since this will give him an irresistible opportunity to display all his symptoms as a Great War book case, which is something he knows you will enjoy as much as himself.
It is unlikely, if you are a collector of Great War books yourself, that you will ever want to give one as a present. Interesting, significant and uncommon books about the First World War in VG condition in VG jackets are far too precious to be doled out like baubles. However, should the unlikely event occur, and you do find yourself ordering a book for someone else as a present, here is a helpful caveat: be careful on opening the parcel to check the goods.
One of the worst things that can happen is to find that you have bought for someone else a book that is better than you were expecting or, worst case scenario, better than the one you already own and with which you can no longer feel satisfied. In this circumstance, you may feel the perfectly human urge to keep the IR’s present for yourself and give him your own inferior copy. It is the sincere advice of The Great War Bookshop that you resist this temptation. Some hardened Great War book cases we deal with believe all is fair in love and war, especially in the books department; we say not. It is better to give than to receive, and if you’re going to give make it the best. You’ll make an old man (rarely an old woman) very happy.