Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review--The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War

Wagner, Margaret E. The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War. Little Brown and Co., New York, NY. 2011. 254 pages, 233 pages text. Index, bibliography, notes, color and b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9780316120685, $35.

With access to the resources of the Library of Congress the reader should expect nothing less than an exceptional book. Author Margaret E. Wagner has certainly delivered upon this expectation.

Wagner serves as a senior writer and editor in the Publishing Office of the Library of Congress and has written, co-written, or edited several other works including The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference, The Library of Congress World War II Companion, Maxfield Parrish and the Illustrators of the Golden Age amongst others. Her background with the available resources at the LOC makes her an obvious choice for this work.

Published in a "coffee table" format the book works perfectly as a conversation piece as well as a book that can be referred to regularly or just perused at the readers' leisure. The book is broken into four logical chapters based upon major events or shifts in the war. In a timeline work such as this though I don't really feel chapters are needed.

Being written in chronological order the reader is able to follow the war on an almost daily basis. For parents working to instill an interest in history in their children a book like this is ideal. The family can read the events of the day together. Mind you, the book is not written with children as a target market however. As would be expected some days have much more information than others. No days however dominate the book. Even the mystique that surrounds the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg does not lead it to more than it's fair share. Most days events can be read within a matter of a couple of minutes.

Wagner and "picture editor" Athena Angelos have done a masterful job in choosing the illustrations that grace practically every page. With over 350 in the book even the most hard core of Civil War historians is likely to see something new. From famous portraits, to copies of letters, to maps and artworks you will find it here. For those wanting copies for themselves there is a useful section that includes LOC image call numbers. This is invaluable for finding copies on the LOC website.

The book wraps up with a full set of notes and a large bibliography. The bibliography also includes website information for many listings that are in the public domain and that can be downloaded for free. A nice inclusion is also a section describing the various collections of Civil War material available through the LOC.

This is a worthwhile book for those with a passing interest in the war or for those who already have an in depth knowledge of events. The book is beautiful to look through and contains a wealth of information for those of all knowledge levels. While the price may seem high once you see the book I am sure you will agree the price is worth it, especially if you can find it at a discount.

Thanks to Little Brown for sending a complimentary review copy.

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