September 28, 2007

"All for the Union"

I’m having some new bookcases built into my living room and as I was boxing up the books, I came across my copy of All for the Union, the famous Civil War diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes. If you’ve seen Ken Burns’ The Civil War, then you certainly know who Rhodes is, even if the name no longer rings a bell. His journal was the most oft-quoted Union soldier diary during that famous TV miniseries. According to The Civil War website, Rhodes was “just 19 when he joined the [2nd] Rhode Island volunteers in 1861. Rhodes had little idea of what to expect from the war or the Union army. His diary of the war years provides candid, fascinating impressions of the slaughter and tragedy he encountered." IMO, it is one of the most readable and enjoyable wartime journals I’ve encountered. The Burns’ series certainly helped turn the Rhodes journal into a healthy seller.

All for the Union was packaged in hardcover and paperback by Orion Books in 1991 with prominent tie-in references on the jacket to the Burns’ series. In fact, many collectors and booksellers mistakenly thought they were acquiring a first edition. Some booksellers even advertise the Orion hardcover as a first edition to this day. The truth is that the true first printing appeared 6 years earlier and was published by the small firm of Andrew Mowbray Inc. of Lincoln, RI. (see image) That had to be a tiny print run for copies in premium condition are difficult to find. To illustrate, ABE currently lists 192 copies of the book for sale, however only 5 are described as being published by Mowbray and of those, only 2 are the hardcover first edition eagerly sought after by collectors.

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