19th Century Civil War Illustrations

November 9, 2010

The Century Illustrated Magazine ran a series of articles in the 1880s about the Civil War that they republished in book form as a four volume series, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. You can read all four of those original books online at Archive.org.

As it happens, I bought two of these several years ago at a used bookstore, volumes 2 and 3. They are reprints made by Castle Books in 1983. As far as I can tell they are about the same size as the Century books and the reproduction quality is good; although, the paper is not ideal and causes the dark areas to bleed out in most cases. The images are also most likely taken from reproductions rather than the original engraved plates. You can see more detail in the scans at Archive.org; however, those scans are highly compressed JPG files so it’s a trade-off. These two books cost me about $6 each and you can find them online for about $10-12. I highly recommend them. There are also many lithographs and etchings included. In volume 4 a few photographs begin to appear. They contain some of the best engravings and line art I’ve ever seen, and there’s tons of spot and full-page illustrations on at least every other page. The art of Isaac Walton Taber is particularly special.

It’s important to mention the size of the prints. If they were reduced to a smaller size it would cause a loss of detail that many modern day reproductions of engravings do not account for. I notice this often in history books.

The text in these volumes is also very fascinating and quite accurate from a historical perspective, which makes it more worthwhile for anyone interested in this era of American history. The only index, by the way, is in the back of the fourth volume.

As I’ve mentioned before, when viewing these images on Archive.org I recommend using their online viewer instead of downloading PDFs since the image quality is better. Zoom the viewer up to 100% and save the JPG (right click>save as.) The samples I’m showing here are only about ¼ the original size.


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