In 1943, the Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Literary Fund sensed an opportunity. Prime Minister Curtin had been approached by the AIF Women's Auxiliary for Prisoners of War, which requested that cheap editions of Australian books be made available to Australia's POWs. The Auxiliary had been selecting books to include in parcels to be sent overseas, and explained to Curtin that:
In making our selection we find that practically every Australian book we would wish to include is now out of print. Experience has shown that prisoners of war everywhere, as their time goes on, increasingly ask for books about their homeland.
The letter was referred to Harry Temby, the Secretary of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, for advice. Temby in turn sent it to Vance Palmer, who was then a member of the Fund's Advisory Board.