August 16, 2007

1491 Days in the Confederate Army

William W. Heartsill's Fourteen Hundred and 91 Days in the Confederate Army: A Journal Kept by W. W. Heartsill for Four Years, One Month, and One Day is one heck of a collectible book. It's original appearance was in 1876 and consisted of only 100 copies hand-printed by its author on an "Octavo Novelty Press."

This day-to-day account of a Texas private who served both in the Trans-Mississippi Department and the Army of Tennessee was originally hand-printed by Heartsill from his war diary with photos of his old company pasted in. According to the classic In Tall Cotton, “This book would be of considerable interest because of the homespun way in which it was produced even if it were devoid of any other virtues. It is, however, a good narrative in its own right.”

According to Civil War News however, students of military campaigns will be disappointed. "Heartsill's unit, the W.P. Lane Rangers of Texas, only participated in one engagement and that resulted in the capture of the entire command. Heartsill did, however, fight in the Battle of Chickamauga and his account of that bloody battle is probably the most stirring section of the book. The true value of 1491 Days is Heartsill's treatment of everyday life in the Confederacy, particularly west of the Mississippi River."

Heartsill's first printing is now all but impossible to obtain as only 13 copies are known to exist, however a 1000-copy hardcover reprint was prepared by McCowat-Mercer Press in 1954 and then reprinted again by Broadfoot Publishers in the late 1980's. Both of those editions have asking prices at or above $100.

The real gem however, is the deluxe, numbered edition that Broadfoot also prepared. Limited to only 150 slipcased copies, this gorgeous production measures 8 1/2" x 11" and is handbound using select goatskin imported from England and fine Italian bookcloth. The binding was designed and crafted by Michael A. Hogle and also features a cover stamped in gold. Of further value is that laid into each volume is a sheet from the original manuscript, with both sides written entirely in Heartsill's hand. Additional illustrations abound including an oversized, tipped-in photograph of Captain Sam Richardson in his leopard skin britches, plus three Civil War maps by Heartsill never before published. All original photographs have been reproduced. The book has been printed on Mohawk Superfine 70 lb. white-smooth acid-free paper with the type entirely reset and enlarged. Truly a fine example of bookmaking as art!

According to the Broadfoot website, less than 40 copies remain and are still available at their original price of $750.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

I'm surprised to learn that only 13 original copies of this book are known to exist. I assume mine is number 14. It's been in my family as long as anyone can remember, but I never knew much about it until recently. It's not exactly museum quality, in fact at some point someone started using it as a scrapbook, damaging many of the pages and photos up to page 15. Should I try to have it restored in any way? Also, is there someone who keeps a count of these things that I should inform about my copy? Thanks.