Sunday, March 23, 2008

For the Good of the Bleeding Land - A Contre Coup Press Books

Here's another book that I did in conjunction with The Filson Club Historical Society, which has now changed its name to The Filson Historical Society - I guess it didn't seem "clubby" enough or something.
Anyway, after having printed the Henry Waller journal, noted in a previous posting, I discussed possible other manuscripts with the Curator of Manuscripts, Jim Holmberg. He suggested several, this being one. The manuscript is a well-known letter from James Phelan, a Confederate Senator from Mississippi, to Jefferson Davis, urging Davis to replace General John Bell Hood with General Joseph Johnston as the Commander of the Army of Tennessee, who had earlier replaced him. The letter was written very late in the Civil War - January 21, 1865 - as the Confederacy was near collapse. The letter has been frequently quoted in various historical works on the Civil War, which must surely be the most written-about war of all time.
So I researched the letter and wrote a brief Introduction and an Afterword (that is, Theophile Homard, my close associate, researched and wrote the Introduction and Afterword). I printed the book on more of the Frankfurt paper that Henry Morris had given me (Henry has joked that I'll become known as "the square book printer" because of the odd shape of the offcuts that I used on this and several other books). The book is 7-3/4 by 6-1/4 inches, with 23 pages. The text was set in the Lutetia typeface, and I printed 60 copies. The book was completed and published in 1999, and is out of print.
I wanted something emblemmatic of the Confederacy for the binding, so I went out and bought a magazine that focused on the Civil War and found a representation of the Confederate battle flag. I cut it out and sent it to my binder, Greg Campbell at Campbell-Logan Bindery in Minneapolis, with instructions as to how to arrange the flag on the cover. He then had a commercial printer that he works with create the paper that was used for the binding. My wife was horrified when she saw it, as the Confederate flag has such negative connotations. But I explained that if you're going to do a book about the Confederacy, you're probably going to want to use the symbols of the Confederacy in the book.
One small touch that I attempted with the book didn't work out as planned. I thought that it might be neat to somehow represent the blue and the grey. So I printed rules on the title page in both blue and grey, and then printed the initial for the Introduction in blue and the initial for the opening page of the letter itself in grey. Well, guess what! Grey pretty much looks like black - underinked black, but black nevertheless. So that was a bust.

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