Edited by Parragon
Parragon, $40.00, 224 pages
The Civil War: A Visual History is exactly what it promises. It’s about 200 pages of pictures, drawings and ephemera from the Civil War. The big draw of the book is that many of these pictures are rarities owned by the Library of Congress. However, the rest of the book is unfortunately a disappointment. The pictures are supplemented with minimal text, not even an introductory essay. The majority of the text in the book is excerpts from letters that, while interesting, seem to be at times only tenuously linked to the images around them. The rest of the text is in the form of picture captions. Often the captions reproduced legible text from the image itself (particularly in the case of postcards). Although generally familiar with the Civil War, I was unfamiliar with many of the people identified in the captions. The chapter subjects and layout suffer from the same hit-or-miss quality as does the layout. Most of the time it was all right, however, on occasions where modern photos of artifacts were included there was a tendency towards unnecessary photo embellishment (and a few weird drop shadows). In short, this is a book for the Civil War buff-someone who already knows so much about the war they won’t be puzzled by the captions, and who will be so fascinated by the rare images they can overlook the rest of the book’s shortcomings.