The American Soldier in the Civil War: A pictorial History published in 1895 by Stanley–Bradley Publishing Co. was an incredible book to study. I say that in the past tense because I am now doing my introduction at the end of the year because my first attempt at it was completely and utterly not up to par. However, now, I would like to remedy that. Right off the bat, the first thing you notice about the book is its sheer size. It is not a novela that one would read for leisure, and it is most certainly not a manual that could be slipped into a pocket. The book, when closed, is about three quarters the length of my arm, and when you open it up fully I would estimate that it is about two feet wide. It reminds me of books that people keep in their house more for decoration rather than utility, similar to when you see a book with pictures of the place or region that you are in.
However, I think it is more than that. The book is filled with large murals that often take up both pages and is close to five hundred pages long. This murals are accompanied by short descriptions of what is occurring in the picture, such as a battle or the everyday life of the soldier. Furthermore the book also contains pictures of important personalities from the war, such as famous generals or politicians that were integral in the major events of The Civil War. For this reason I think this shows that the book is actually used for a purpose. This purpose would be to educate people about the war, especially thirty years after it ended in 1865.
Another important aspect of the book that I talk about in later blog entries is the fact that two of the major authors listed in this book are General Fitzhugh Lee and John T. Morgan. The interesting part about these two men is that one would think they were generals for the Union during the Civil War. They wrote a book published in the North in New York City with a huge headshot of Abraham Lincoln in one of the first few pages of the book. However, this is not the case. Both of these men served during the war as generals for the Confederate Army. I honestly think that this is the most interesting part about the making of this book. In a later blog, I will discuss the significance of this for the book and what may have motivated the men to write a book that, in a way, honors the enemy they just fought against. Another interesting aspect of this book is its binding and cover.
The book has, what I consider, to be an extremely ornate cover and binding. The material it is made out feels like a hard, blue, plastic-like substance, while the corners of the book and the edge of the binding are made out of brown leather. Furthermore, the titles on the front and on the binding are made of a gold, gilded lettering that really makes them pop and catch the eye of someone looking over it. These physical aspects of the book add to the fact that, while i think it does serve a useful purpose when it comes to learning about the Civil War, the book does serve another purpose in that it could be used to decorate a coffee table or someone’s bookshelf. If the book was in a little bit better condition in regards to some of the pages and the cover and binding falling apart, I could see this book on a coffee table in my families living room if I had loved back in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Another couple of important aspects of the book that I found interesting are its index and timeline. These both exist in the very beginning of the book. The index is just your classic index, listing names, locations, and battles, and telling you on what pages information on them is available. The timeline is rather extensive, giving a very detailed and comprehensive recount of the events of the civil war that last for about five pages. I think the fact that these exist say something very important about how one would go about reading this book. This book was not written to be read cover to cover. Instead, the person reading the book goes to either the timeline or the index, looks up a date, an event, or a person they are interested in studying, and then reads the pages that are listed that have information on each of these things.
In conclusion this was a book I was extremely excited to work with. It taught me many things about how form affects function, and in my next blogs, I will delve deeper into the form of this book.