September 11, 2008


This is one of those classic examples of bibliographic sleuthing that makes book collecting so enjoyable and highlights the sometimes wacky world of book pricing.

In 1992, the University of Kansas Press published Hard Marching Every Day: The Civil War Letters of Private Wilbur Fisk, 1861-1865. Wisk had enlisted in the 2nd Vermont Infantry and though a common foot soldier, he also served as an “in the field” correspondent for Montpelier’s Green Mountain Freeman. Over the course of the next four years, Fisk sent over 100 letters back to the paper, all written and published under the pseudonym of “Anti-Rebel.” Fisk was certainly no professional journalist and as such, he had no access to generals and headquarters. He was simply one of the boys and wrote proficiently of battlefields, camp life, and the trials and tribulations of being a simple soldier.

The book was well received and is in print to this day in paperback format. It seems to be a staple of eastern theater primary sources and is included in David Eicher’s The Civil War in Books: An Analytical Bibliography (#474). Civil War historian Herman Hattaway referred to Fisk’s epistolary efforts as “literary gems” while Library Journal described the book as “the best overall picture of Union Army life in epistolary form, this unique volume, quite different from other compendia of Civil War letters, should be purchased by all public and academic libraries with Civil War collections.” First printings seem readily available with asking prices all the way up to $60.

There’s just one thing. This edition as published by the University Press of Kansas is basically a reprint, though it does contain a new foreword by Reid Mitchell. None can be considered a first edition, because the book’s true first edition appeared nine years earlier in 1982 under the title of Anti-Rebel: The Civil War Letters of Wilbur Fisk. If you own a copy of Hard Marching and look at the copyright page, you’ll see the small print mention of this fact. The very small hardcover printing of Anti-Rebel was basically self-published by the editor, Emil Rosenblatt, at Croton-On-Hudson, New York. If you’re a first edition book collector, the earlier edition is certainly the one you’ll want on your bookshelf and as you can see here, far fewer copies are offered for sale.

1 comment:

grayhouse said...

Emil and Ruth Rosenblatt would have been very pleased to read this. They found the Fisk letters in the course of their summers in central Vermont and devoted several years to their efforts to get the letters published before publishing Anti-Rebel themselves; when UP Kansas picked up the flag, so to speak, they were delighted that Fisk was being recognized more widely. I wish they themselves had been recognized sooner and more widely, but knowing that both Anti-Rebel and Hard Marching are still known, read, and wanted is a good feeling even if the Rosenblatts are no longer here.