Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: The Civil War, 1861-1865: Smithsonian Headliners Series by Eric C. Caren & Stephen A. Goldman

By Eric C. Caren & Stephen A. Goldman

Aside from letters and diaries there is nothing that brings the history of the American Civil War than reading through the newspapers of the era, many of which are now available for free on the internet.

Eric C. Caren & Stephan A. Goldman, are the authors of “The Civil War, 1861-1865: Smithsonian Headliners Series,” which features full page images of historic newspapers that have been culled from their collections.

Newspapers featured in the book come from both the United and Confederate States: Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia as well as two newspapers from England.

Paper became increasingly scarce in South as the war went on.  Therefore in any collection of newspapers from 1860-1865 the Confederate States would be found as under-represented.  The collections of Messrs. Caren & Goldman presented in their book are no exception.  In their collection New York, with 15 different titles is the most represented state; South Carolina a distant second with 10 titles to its credit, followed by Pennsylvania with 7 and Louisiana with 6.  The most represented newspaper in the volume is the New York Illustrated News with 51 entries in the book’s index, followed by the New York Herald with 27, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and The Philadelphia Inquirer both with 19.

The front page of each newspaper is featured, with a minimal one or two lines of text, and presented in chronological order beginning with New York Illustrated News’ November 17, 1860 coverage of the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States to the New York Daily Tribune’s coverage of the surrender of Kirby Smith’s forces as well as Jefferson Davis’ confinement on May 29, 1965.  All the major events of the war are represented.

Providing an extra dimension, inserted in the middle of the book, almost as an intermission, are rare and historic images from the collection of the Smithsonian Institution selected from the works of Matthew Brady, Winslow Homer, Currier and Ives, among others.

“The Civil War, 1861-1865: Smithsonian Headliners Series,” is an interesting book to thumb through.  It is more of a coffee table book, and not really useful to a student of the war.  The newspaper images had to be considerably reduced from their original size to fit into the already oversized book.  The newspaper texts are legible, but not very user friendly, and I suspect were not really meant to be read as presented.  For anyone interested in the historical content of the newspapers featured I would strongly urge them to go to the original papers themselves.

ISBN 978-1574000993, Data Trace Legal Pub Inc., © 2004, Hardcover, 14.7 x 10.3 x 0.8 inches, 256 pages, Maps (contained in the newspaper images), Photographs & Index. $49.95.  The publisher is offering a 50% discount when you use the code 150YRS at checkout.

1 comment:

Data Trace Publishing said...

Thanks so much Jim for posting this review. We really appreciate it. Just in case anyone is interested we also offer a companion DVD with this book that includes electronic copies of all the pages and makes everything much easier to read.You can check it out here. Thanks again!