My Reference Shelf

29 09 2009

Library

I have one shelf of books that sits right over my desk on which I put what I refer to as my “reference books.”  I like to have them there because my library is in some disarray, and I want to be able to find most of these quickly.  I’m going to share these with you now, for no particular reason.  I’ll move left to right, and provide links to where you can find the books for purchase and/or descriptions.  The ORs aren’t on this shelf, obviously, though I do keep a few volumes on the next shelf up and have the DVD in my laptop all the time (I’ve rearranged things since the above photo was taken, and almost all of my ORs are in storage now, waiting for a good home).  Also further up are volumes of the Army Register and The Rebellion Record and The Union Army and The Military Historical Society of Massachusetts papers and Lincoln’s Collected Works and Lincoln Day-by-Day.  But this shelf is for the most used books.

I have other reference works, encyclopedias, desk references and such, but I don’t use them nearly as much as I use these.

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19 responses

29 09 2009
brian

Soooo, I can call you for look-ups?

29 09 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Any time, bud.

29 09 2009
Dylan

I won’t lie; I’m incredibly envious. Looks like a wonderful collection to have on-hand. Do you have some info. you could share on the ORs DVD? That sounds extremely useful. Thanks!

-Dylan

PS – I really enjoyed Four Brothers in Blue. Hope you’re doing the same.

30 09 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Dylan,

The Civil War DVD, formerly produced by Guild Press, is now available here:

http://www.civilwaramerica.com/

I’m stalled out on Four Brothers – other things have come up, and it is a very densely packed book. I’ll get back to it soon. Bonfire is almost done.

30 09 2009
Terry Johnston

Harry:

I’m jealous. By the way, do you have all volumes of The Rebellion Record, or just a few? Originals or the reprint? I’ll never forgive myself for passing, several years ago, on obtaining the entire 1977 reprint—in mint condition, no less—for $100. Don’t know what I was thinking. Now, my impression is that you’d be lucky to find a well-worn reprint set for less than $300.

Terry

30 09 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Terry,

I have the first two volumes (keeping in mind what I’m now interested in) of the 1977 reprint that I bought for $10 each at Wonder Books either in Frederick or Hagerstown. I couldn’t find anything but originals on Bookfinder, but did find a few of the reprints very reasonably priced on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/040510877X/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&qid=1254347584&sr=1-1&condition=used

I have a few incomplete sets – I bought only volume 2 of the JCCW from Broadfoot, and I got volumes 1 and 6-9 of the Army Register at a Half-Price Books for $4 per. I like having things to keep an eye out for. I have the two supplements to Mencken’s The American Language, and while I could buy the first volume on line, I kind of like the hunt.

30 09 2009
Donald Thompson

Harry,

Very impressive collection! but I heard the NYC Public Library reported a bunch of their reference books have come up missing over the past couple of years.

On a less serious note, what’s your opinion of “The Civil War In Books.” Is it a good source for identifying out of print titles that would be worth buying?

Thanks,
Donald

30 09 2009
Harry Smeltzer

I’m not crazy about that book. The Dornbusch books (the 4 volume set listed just before “The Civil War in Books” on my list) are probably better for what you’re looking for. There is another annotated bibliography I’d buy if I could find one at a reasonable price, and that’s Steven Woodworth’s “The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research.” Pricey at $165 new, $100 used.

1 10 2009
Terry Johnston

Harry:

Thanks for the link. I usually go to abebooks.com to look for used titles. Amazon (or at least their sellers) seem to mark things up more often than not.

As for annotated bibliographies, are you familiar with Garold Cole’s two volumes, “Civil War Eyewitnesses”? They’re essential, in my opinion, right up there with Dornbusch’s volumes.

Terry

1 10 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Terry,

I don’t have “Eyewitnesses”. I’ll check it out.

OK, just looked at it. Two volumes take you from 1950-1996, and lists all the first hand accounts published over that period. Hmmm…looks good. Of course, what we need is for someone to write a comprehensive bibliography, like Dornbusch, put it online, and update it. Then we won’t need things like this. Or at least we won’t WANT things like this. I have Sauers’s Gettysburg bib. Why? I have no freakin’ idea!

Now, some might ask who would put all that work into something then make it available on the web? Plenty of folks who realize that you’ll never get any appreciable return on your investment from the very limited sales this type of book would see. But you’d get wonderful, constructive, and constant feedback with a web project. There simply is no way to make a living doing what we do.

This will make you sick – I got all four volumes of Dornbusch, brand new, for $125 from the Morningside table at the Mansfield show a couple of years ago. And Lincoln Day-by-Day single volume, brand new, for $25. Sick, huh?

Man, I just read that paragraph again and realize what a hopeless geek I am.

By the way, if you want to reply to a specific comment in a thread, click on the reply button at the bottom of that comment.

1 10 2009
Terry Johnston

Harry:

I’m think I’m like you—very careful before putting down money for yet another CW book (especially considering the lack of shelf space). But I’d strongly suggest that you consider purchasing both of Cole’s volumes, if the opportunity presents itself. In truth, they’re extensions of Dornbusch, picking up (I think) more or less where he left off. And the inclusion of articles, not just books, is great. When I’m beginning a research project, I pick up Cole right after I’ve put down Dornbusch. Great stuff. I only hope he’s going to come out with a third volume soon, covering works published during the last ten years.

As for someone compiling a comprehensive bibliography online, it would be a wonderful thing—but like you say, not likely a money-maker.

You did very well on your Dornbusch purchase. Much better than I did, though I can’t recall what I paid. Then again, I only picked up the first three volumes. I still need to try for the fourth (supplemental), presuming it’s worth it.

Speaking of supplemental volumes, I haven’t kept up with those added on to the Battles and Leaders series. I think more than one’s come out in recent years. Are you familiar?

Terry

P.S. Speaking of Cole’s works, I’d gladly see what books / articles he lists under Bull Run, if you’d like.

1 10 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Terry, you are a jagoff. My interest is piqued. It appears the second volume can be had on the cheap, but the first volume is a different story.

On the B&L: I have Cozzens’ Volume 5, but have yet to get Volume 6. Thanks for reminding me…NOT! Cozzens also did an additional volume of Annals of the War.

2 10 2009
Terry Johnston

Harry:

Sorry! Couldn’t help myself. For the first volume, check out abebooks. I just looked, and it appears they have copies for sale beginning at $15. (Sorry again.)

I think I was sent a review copy of vol. 5 or 6 of B&L several years back—only reason I have it.

Terry

1 10 2009
Larry Freiheit

Harry,

Interesting list–thanks.

Is the Arco dictionary really almost 8,000 pages as Amazon shows? I see the 1991 edition is 420 pages; I’ve not seen either one so before I bought the new one I was curious. I guess I’d prefer having the 8,000 page version if that page count is correct.

Have you found many differences in definitions between that modern military dictionary and those from the 19th century?

Re bibliographies, what do you think of “Civil War Books” by Nevins, et al?

In addition to going directly to ABE, Alibris, Amazon, etc., I use a few search engines which cover all of them plus many others such as: dealoz.com, bookfindercom, bookhq.com, etc. I do find that depending on how these sites search the other sites, results can vary maybe because of different editions, etc., so when I get a good hit I carefully check out the child site before ordering. Have you ever used these search engine sites or others such as kessinger.net? I’ve had good luck reading online out-of-copyright books on books.google.com and archive.org.

Larry Freiheit

1 10 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Larry,

I found your comment in my spam filter for some reason. Not sure why.

The Arco dictionary I have is from ’88 and has 389 pages. I once had my hands on a copy of a military dictionary from 1864. I have it listed in my Books and Articles On-Line page, but here’s the link:

http://www.archive.org/details/militarydictiona00scotuoft

It was a very nice reprint, but I couldn’t justify $60 for a book I could get for free on-line. I haven’t done a comparison of terms, but of course there are going to be some that don’t show up in both books. The bigger concern is terms that show up in both books but with different definitions. Some things don’t change, like the definitions of flanking attack aond turning movement, which mean different things despite the penchant of some to use them interchangeably.

I don’t have the Nevins book, nor have I seen it.

I do what you do when searching for books. But strangely enough, I’m usually most satisfied with Amazon’s marketplace. I find that most of them are also listed at bookfinder, and the prices are consistent. Thankfully, however, I’m finding myself buying fewer and fewer books. I receive a lot for review, and I’m pretty much out of room in my library. And since finally settling down and focusing on Bull Run, I feel less of a need to have everything. I’ve never been able to understand the whole “returning the book” part of public libraries, though. So, I still want to keep my books.

1 10 2009
Larry Freiheit

Harry,

Thx for that link to that CW dictionary! I had not seen that before; it is also on Google books. It looked so good that I just ordered a HC printed by Univ of Michigan for $34 with free shipping from Buy.com (ISBN: 9781418126803).

1 10 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Larry,

To reply to a specific comment in a thread, click the “reply” button at the bottom of that comment.

2 10 2009
Mike Peters

Harry,

I’m still lacking 3 of Hunt’s books, having only the book that contains PA Colonels.

Quite impressive list my friend!

Mike Peters

3 10 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Mike,

The first two volumes ain’t gonna get any cheaper. What are you waiting for?

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