2010 Bookseller Resource Guide
Collecting Civil War Books
Bookstores Mentioned
Chapel Hill Rare Books
P.O. Box 456
Carrboro, NC 27510
Tel: (919) 929-8351

Abraham Lincoln Book Shop
357 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610
Tel: (312) 944.3085

Joe Rubinfine
505 South Flagler Drive, Suite 1301
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
Tel: (561) 659-7077

Main Street Fine Books
206 North Main Street
Galena, IL 61036
Tel: (815) 777-3749

Quaker Hill Books
31 Topstone Road
Redding, CT 06896
Tel: (203) 938-9565
Many eyewitness accounts by soldiers were published during the war. These books became primary sources for historians and scholars and are prized by collectors. Chapel Hill Rare Books’s O’Dell prefers these chronicles to later accounts, and Confederate over Union. “There was no Confederate standing army at the start of the war,” he explained. “They had to start from scratch. Some prominent Southern community leader would raise a company and clothe and arm them. Most of the units stayed intact throughout the war.” Some of the more interesting memoirs he recommends are Orderly Sergeant Walter A. Clark’s 1900 book, Under the Stars and Bars; or Memories of Four Years Service With the Oglethorpes of Augusta, Georgia ($950) and Edward A. Pollard’s Observations in the North: Eight Months in Prison and On Parole ($1,150). Clark recounts his long service in many states and fought against Sherman’s army as it marched on Atlanta. Pollard’s book, one of just three Confederate prison narratives published during the war, has a good claim to the title of last book published in the Confederacy.
Besides books, publishers quickly printed pamphlets describing the latest news of the war. William Butts of Main Street Fine Books in Galena, Illinois, believes pamphlets are undervalued. They are often particular to their region and serve as primary historical sources. But, he said, “They just don’t jump off the shelf,” even though many booksellers repackage them in boxes and portfolios. As an example, Butts offered a fifty-six-page pamphlet written by Dr. J. H. Rouse, a surgeon with the ninth regiment of the Virginia Volunteers, who witnessed a massacre of troops in West Virginia. His “thrilling account,” Horrible Massacre at Guyandotte, Va., and a Journey to the Rebel Capital, With a Description of Prison Life in a Tobacco Warehouse at Richmond, is one of the rarest pamphlets relating to the Civil War in West Virginia, which is seldom covered in war histories. Main Street’s copy is in “good condition” only, but its scarcity commands a price of $950.
The invention of photography produced a seismic shift in publishing and in the history of warfare. Matthew Brady, a successful studio photographer before the war, led a team of photographers into the battlefields across the country. In spite of the difficulty and risk, Brady and his team captured on film many major historical figures and also recorded the life of the common soldier. Francis Trevelyan Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War, published in 1911, was the first time that Brady’s collected photographs were assembled and seen by the public. “The impact of those horrendous battlefield images created quite a stir,” said Anthony Freyberg of Quaker Hill Books. These images are burned into the collective consciousness of America and changed the way people looked at warfare. Quaker Hill Books has the complete 10-volume set in “good condition” for $1,250.
Most expert collectors and booksellers agree that the old mantra is true: The collector should look for the materials that interest them the most. Joe Rubinfine advises focus. “Develop your own specialty within a subject. By continuing to learn, you can recognize importance that a generalist would miss.”