Antique Civil War book brings history to life
by Eric Johnson
As part of the Metro Spirit’s look at the collectible treasures that are all around us, we talked to Jennifer Rucker, a teacher with a very special book.
“It’s like a coffee table book on steroids,” she said, laughing. “But it’s beautiful and I love it.”
The oversized book, called the “Official and Illustrated War Record,” is a historical account of the Civil War published in 1898, just 33 years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and it contains over 1,000 illustrations, including portraits of all the important generals, several scenes from the Southeast, including Hilton Head Island, Folly Island and a compelling image of a crowd watching a battle from the Battery in Charleston.
For as long as she can remember, the book has captivated her with its age and those wonderful illustrations, which include several foldout battle scenes every bit as detailed as a photograph.
“It’s really cool to look at, especially the illustrations,” she said. “Even if you aren’t a big history buff, it’s just cool to look at.”
Certainly the fact that her childhood neighborhood in Marietta backed up to a Civil War battlefield made it even more interesting to her.
The book, which is 12.5 inches across, 17 inches tall and about two inches thick, shows signs of wear, especially toward the front, but for a book that’s more than 100 years old, it’s still in excellent condition.
“Its cover is grayish blue and it doesn’t have a title,” she said. “There’s just an angel-like image with a sword in one hand and a flaming torch in the other.”
That’s a far cry from today’s mass-produced books, which themselves are likely to be collector’s items as eBooks continue to gain market share.
Like most things of that age, this book was passed down through the generations.
“I came about it through my dad, who came about it through his granddad, who got it from a family friend,” she said.
That succession is spelled out in a series of inscriptions in the front of the book. Right above her father’s inscription to her there is an inscription from the original owner to her great, great grandfather.
Making it even more special is the fact that the book is one of the few things Rucker ever acquired that way.
“I’m the baby of four kids, so typically the last kid doesn’t get a whole lot passed down,” she said.
Her father knew her love of history, though, and especially her love for that book, so when she became a history teacher and started teaching the Civil War, he went ahead and gave it to her.
As a history teacher, she realizes the value of age, but her attachment to the book goes beyond that of an antique, however. It’s almost that of a protector.
“My husband took it downtown for something at one point, and I was a nervous wreck,” she said. “It’s so fragile.”
She keeps the book on its back in her living room, sitting on an antique table, and though she knows it has both historic and sentimental value, she’s unsure what its monetary value is.
She knows her father had someone look at the book back in the 1970s or 1980s, but the only thing her father can remember about the event is that the guy who looked at it suggested he have it properly preserved.
Thirty-some years later, it’s 30-some years older, still not preserved, but appreciated all the more.You Might Also Like: