August 30, 2007

Fine Press Books

I’ve always been especially fond of “fine press” books. These are books that strive to highlight the press’ bookmaking talents and artistic visions. Usually hand bound and made of the finest leathers, cloths, and paper, they can be considered the ultimate examples of “bookmaking as art.”

Such books are often found in the literary world but are, IMO, somewhat uncommon in the Civil War non-fiction world. Why? My theory is that fine press books highlight the book’s production values as its primary selling point with the actual words and content being a secondary concern. With ACW books, the “data” is everything. Note that I do not count the leather bound books produced by Easton Press as fine press productions. Though nicely done, they are machine-made and produced in relatively large quantities.

There have been a few however that meet the description that I can readily think of. In fact, my most recent project, a collection of two brothers’ previously unpublished ACW letters titled Give My Love to All Our Folks, is a 100-copy fine press production that I consider my offering to this type of art. Most of the sales so far have been to fine press collectors rather than Civil War readers, which helps to solidify my opinion as to why there's a lack of fine press books in the Civil War world.

I also own a copy of Journey to Pleasant Hill: The Civil War Letters of Captain Elijah Petty. This is a beautiful, 2-volume leather bound set that is housed in a matching slipcase. (pics forthcoming) Published in 1982 by the University of Texas’ Institute of Texan Cultures, the work measures 8 ½ x 11,” is printed in three colors, and was limited to 500 copies. It generally is priced in the $125-150 range. And of course, the Broadfoot book discussed in an earlier post would also be considered a fine press production.

I’m sure there are others out there. Let me know what I missed!

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