Six years ago to the day on this blog, I wrote about the Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders series published by H. E. Howard, Inc. from approximately 1984 to 2000. The first printings of each title in the series were published in matching dark blue bindings with gold gilt lettering, austere white and gold dust jackets, and were limited to 1000 copies signed and numbered by the author on a special tipped-in signature page.
Over the years, any first edition in jacket from the battles series that is not a library discard has become quite collectible, notwithstanding what was considered to be a wide discrepancy in the scholarly merits of one book to the next.
From my collector’s vantage and in discussions with used and rare book dealers, it appears the most difficult first edition to acquire in collector’s condition from that series has been Theodore Mahr’s 1992 work titled Early’s Valley Campaign: The Battle of Cedar Creek: Showdown in the Shenandoah October 1-30, 1864. I can’t put my finger on why this particular title has become so scarce compared to others in the series, as evidenced by the fact that fine first editions of this book in dust jacket often command prices in the $200 and up range. I even once saw a second printing with an asking price of $150! Until last month, I did not own a first edition copy despite years of searching, so when I came across a pristine, jacketed copy for considerably less than that figure, I jumped all over it.
Moreover, unlike many other titles in the series, the writing and research of this book is considered top-notch though, according to the author, the book was essentially an edited version of his master’s thesis. Mr. Mahr commented on his book on Eric Wittenberg’s blog in early 2008, in which the former National Park Historian acknowledged his gratitude to such seminal authors as Robert Krick, Gary Gallagher and Jeffrey Wert, all of whom gave his work a well-deserved thumbs up.
As you read in those comments, Mr. Mahr mentioned that there will be an updated revision to this work. I’ve been in touch with the author recently and he states that he is at work on his revision, though there is no timetable. The original book went through three printings at 1500 copies per print run and was focused primarily on the Confederate perspective, whereas his new work will be far more balanced and feature a considerable amount of source material unknown to the author when he was working on his thesis decades ago. Those of us in the Civil War book community wish Mr. Mahr nothing but the best and eagerly look forward to reading his revised work.