“A DELIGHT TO THE CASUAL READER AND A RICH TREASURY FOR THE HISTORICAL INVESTIGATOR”: FIVE VOLUMES OF HARPER’S WEEKLY, 1861-65, COVERING THE CIVIL WAR YEARS, WITH NUMEROUS WOOD-ENGRAVINGS BY HOMER AND NAST
(CIVIL WAR). Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Volumes V-IX. New York: Harper & Brothers, January 5, 1861-December 30, 1865. Six volumes. Large thick folio (12 by 16-1/2 inches), publisher's brown cloth gilt.
Critical run of one of the great contemporary historical sources of the Civil War, containing first-hand accounts from the battlefield and thousands of woodengraved illustrations by such noted American artists as Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast, including many scenes of battle and camp, portraits of officers, political cartoons, maps and battle plans. A beautiful set, quite rare in publisher’s original cloth.
Begun in 1857, Harper's Weekly remains one of the most valuable primary sources for understanding 19th-century American life. "The old files of Harper's Weekly are a delight to the casual reader and a rich treasury for the historical investigator. Here is a vital illustrated history… The combination of pictures, politics, essays and fiction gives [Harper's] first-rate importance" (Mott, 469). Issues from the Civil War years contain not only an in-depth view of civilian life during the war, but dramatic first-hand accounts from the battlefronts, graphic scenes of engagement in the field and life in the camps. From the first encounter at Fort Sumter, through all the hard-fought campaigns and into the beginnings of Reconstruction, Harper's chronicles the bloody years that indelibly shaped the future of the United States. Articles and essays present the points of view of generals, politicians, merchants, slaves, ordinary soldiers and common citizens, north and south. Virtually every page offers insight into this pivotal era, with thousands of wood-engravings, a great many by famous artists Winslow Homer and Thomas Nast. Homer began his professional career with Harper's in 1857. As the Civil War broke, he was assigned to make sketches from Mathew Brady's photographs to be transferred to wood-blocks for engraving. "Destined to become an artist of the highest stature and already possessing the full powers of a skilled illustrator… Homer's strength lay in graphic depiction, as it did, basically, all his life— not so much in the sense that his pictures always tell a story, but more in the sense that there is always something being done in them" (Grossman, 17, 19). Following his successful depiction of Lincoln's inauguration in 1861 (March 16th issue), Harper's began to use his artistic talent more extensively. The year 1862 contains three of Homer's most memorable and collected pieces from his Civil War years: "The Surgeon," "The Sharpshooter," and "Thanksgiving in Camp." "In assessing Homer's complex and voluminous output during the war years, it is important to remember his title of artist-correspondent. He was a reporter… His coverage of the many facets of the far-flung encounter still conveys a remarkably broad picture of the Civil War as it moved, or dragged on, year after year" (Beam, 13). Political cartoonist Thomas Nast joined Harper's in 1862, producing for them 55 signed engravings, among them his well-known Christmas illustrations— formal sources for our modern-day Santa Claus (issue for December 26, 1863). One of Nast's cartoons, "Compromise with the South" (September 3, 1864) was said to have re-elected President Lincoln. Lincoln was reported to have singled Nast out as "our best recruiting sergeant. His emblematic cartoons have never failed to arouse enthusiasm and patriotism." See Mott, 469-87; Beam, 250-59; Paine, 98-104. Lomazow 648.
Interior fine, just an occasional expert paper repair, bright and fresh cloth with minor expert restoration to a few spines only. A beautiful copy.