November 26, 2007

For That Gettysburg Buff on Your Holiday List

If you had to come up with one book on the Gettysburg campaign that was an important first edition collectable and contained excellent scholarship, what would it be? My vote would go to Edwin B. Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command, published by Scribners in 1968. This massive 866-page tome set the standard for battle narratives for decades to follow. Though some now consider Stephen Sears' Gettysburg to be the best single-volume text on the battle, it is too new to garner the collectible mantel for purposes of this post.

According to David Eicher's The Civil War in Books: An Analytical Bibliography, Coddington's book is "massively documented and systematically even in its telling of the campaign. This work ranks as one of the best on a Civil War military campaign" and is a "wholly successful element of Civil War literature." The Gettysburg Bibliophile also writes, "What The Killer Angels did for the general reader, Edwin Coddington's Gettysburg: A Study In Command did for the serious historian. Coddington's account of the battle is an incredible mix of readability and depth, and is considered by many serious students of Gettysburg to be their favorite book on the battle."

The book was ultimately reprinted by both Scribners and Morningside, and was even issued by the Easton Press in a two-volume deluxe leatherbound edition, now out of print. The Scribners paperback reprint is still in print today. However, the 1968 first edition is the real long-term collectible for the book's massive heft, popularity, and easily rubbed dust jacket have conspired to make copies in premium condition rather scarce and therefore pricey. I found seven such copies for sale on ABE however none were in fine condition. Even still, prices ranged from $60 all the way to $200. This is a can't miss book for that Civil War bibliophile on your holiday shopping list. Any other ideas out there?

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