Sunday, October 9, 2011

Civil War Sunday - Oliver Optic

Oliver who?

You wouldn't have asked that question in the late 19th century, especially if you had preteen boys in the house.

Yesterday, I went to Ithaca, NY for their semi-annual Friends of the Library Book Sale - one of the largest in the United States.  In the warehouse (yes, a warehouse) this sale takes place in, there is a book lovers room:  Collectors Corner.  Only seven book lovers are allowed in at a time to browse.  Some books they feature are expensive-in the hundreds of dollars. Other books are a lot more reasonable.  Not all their offerings are books, either.  Recently, they have also dealt in ephemera.  For example, today they had a couple of (World War II) War Bonds collectors albums for sale - alas, without the War Bonds.

One colorful hardcover, in the children's section, caught my eye.

This book was obviously written about the Civil War.  I opened up the book and the copyright date was 1896.  Looking inside, I saw this was the fourth book of a series of books about the Civil War.

The asking price was $8.00.

I was reluctant to spend the money-I am going to have a lot of expenses in the very near future, and I am actually going to be trying to get rid of some of my books. (Sigh).   But...well, it didn't take much convincing to buy it.  A book fool and her money are soon parted at a library book sale.

When I got home, I looked Oliver Optic up online, and was amazed at what I found out about him.

Oliver Optic was the pen name of one William Taylor Adams of Massachusetts.  He was a teacher, and quite the prolific writer of boys' adventure stories.  He wrote at least 125 books, including several series based on the Civil War.  He also wrote one non fiction book, a biography of General Grant.   Some of his prose was criticized by Louisa May Alcott.  But Adams has stood the test of time.  Look on Amazon and you will find a number of his books are still in print, and are even available for the Kindle.

Adams also helped to promote the career of a children's author more familiar to us today - Horatio Alger, Jr. Like the books of Alger, the writings of Optic sought to shape the moral values of young man, in addition to entertaining.

The Oliver Optic books were so popular, the originals are not rare today.  Great literature these are not, but they are of great interest to me because the author was alive during the Civil War, although he did not fight in the war. 

Leafing through my book, my guess is that the events in the book took place somewhere around February - April of 1862 as Ft. Donelson, Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) and Corinth are mentioned.

As far as my find was concerned, I had a bargain.  The beginning of the book mentioned that it cost $1.50.  That, of course, was in 1896 dollars and was for a new book.  In 2010 dollars, that would be $38.78.

As I've said before, you can find the Civil War everywhere.

1 comment:

  1. The cover alone would have gotten me from "hello". Totally understand the budgetary constraints, if you ever regret the purchase, just holler and you can send it our way... for the 2011 "1886 price", lol...


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