May 26, 2010

Jefferson Davis: American Patriot 1808-1861

I recently picked up a first edition copy of this 1955 book while "booking" in upstate Michigan and it involved a pleasant surprise that all serious book collectors can appreciate. The book itself was in very nice condition for a 55-year-old book; crisp white pages, firm binding, nothing dog-eared, however the dust jacket was what you might expect. The white back panel was soiled while the brown spine was noticeably faded, plus there were the usual minor creases at the edges. Still, at $7, I figured I'd spring for it. However, while checking over the jacket one last time, I noticed what appeared to be a piece of paper lying underneath the jacket, yet almost attached. As I carefully started pealing away the worn top dust jacket, I realized that hiding underneath was a second, pristine dust jacket!

Dust jackets are folded onto the book by a machine that, in this case, simply grabbed two jackets in a manner not unlike a copier pulling through two pieces of paper. So for 55 years, while the outer jacket was taking the abuse, carefully preserved underneath it was a second jacket that is as factory fresh as the day it was made. Obviously that one went straight into a glassine jacket protector!

The book itself was authored by University of Alabama professor Hudson Strode (1892-1976) and represented the first of a three-volume trilogy on the life of Jefferson Davis. All three books were published by Harcourt Brace between the years of 1955 and 1964. This first volume covers all of his pre-Civil War life. In total, the three volumes were described in the Nevins-Robertson-Wiley bibliography as "ambitious and sympathetic" as well as "meticulously researched and well-written." Another contemporary review of the book described the author's style as "fascinating" and that "his revelation of the character and the personality of his subject is superb." This first volume is particularly interesting from the research end of things as the author was granted access to a large collection of family letters owned by Davis's grandson that had never before been seen by scholars.

I'll have to add this one to the "must read" pile and then start looking for the other two volumes, though I doubt I'll get as lucky with jackets!


Kevin McCann said...

Congratulations on your great find! I've always wanted to add these biographies by Strode to my own collection. I recall reading "American Patriot" as a teenager and enjoyed it.

Paul Taylor said...

Kevin - Thanks for commenting. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Paul

I enjoy your blog very much. Besides this biography of Davis, there are other single volume biographies by Davis, Cooper and Allen. Have you read any of these?
If so what did you think of them?

Don Hallstrom