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Friday, October 4, 2013

Smithsonian Civil War - Inside the National Collection: Book Review

     Smithsonian Civil War is impressive from the beginning for its sheer weight and design. Beautifully crafted in a manner that reminded me of the early books published by American Heritage, such as Bruce Catton's two volume, Picture History of the Civil War, one of the highlights of my childhood that spawned a lifelong obsession with the period. Inside, the crispness of the images jumps out at the reader. After all, the images are what it's all about, the impressive national treasures that are displayed within. Great care was taken in photographing the pieces selected, displayed in 150 treatments, like chapters, sometimes with multiple items. This volume constitutes a virtual museum in a 368 page book.
     There is so much to absorb that selecting sample images for this review was a near impossible task. Solving that problem came about by randomly opening to a page and going with what it revealed. There could be no losers. Every item chosen is an outstanding relic of the era. In many ways this volume is also reminiscent of the Time/Life, Echoes of Glory set from 1991. But have no fear, the Smithsonian presentation is not a repetition of the same old stuff. Without a doubt, this book will provide hours of initial entertainment and years of continued reference. Any student of the American Civil War, be they novice or lifelong reader, will be delighted in receiving this unique record of the four years that defined us. I highly recommend putting it on Santa's list for any young history buff. This is the kind of work that makes an impression on a budding historian, and they will be so much more impressed by the physical nature of a hardcover book rather than the trendy ebooks out there. The accompanying text is well written and succinct, providing a non-overbearing explanation of the artifacts that will inspire further research, and that is the mark of any great effort such as this. The chronologic flow in presentation tells the story of the causes and ultimate effects of a national tragedy. The Smithsonian Editorial Committee has done a fantastic job in honoring the Sesquicentennial observance of the American Civil War.  

Author: Smithsonian Institution; Edited by Neil Kagan; Foreword by Jon MeachamISBN 13: 978-1-58834-389-5ISBN 10: 1588343898
Hardcover Price: $40.00

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