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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Leveraging up on The Maps of Gettysburg

I was interviewed recently by Jerry Morelock, the editor of the uniquely interesting Armchair General magazine. (September issue, released mid-July). All of his questions were good ones, but one in particular made me smile:

In 2007, you published The Maps of Gettysburg by Brad Gottfried, an outstanding examination of the entire Civil War Gettysburg campaign of 1863 presented in 144 full page maps. Has the success of this book’s format (a detailed description of the action appears on the facing page accompanying each map) inspired follow-on books on other famous historical campaigns?

Follow-on titles? In a word, yes.

I can't do much well (just ask my wife), but I can synthesize data and ideas very quickly, and grasp the big picture easily. Brad Gottfried told me he was excited when I “understood” what he was trying to do because a couple other publishers had tried to significantly alter it: "Just do the second day," or "can you focus on Little Round Top?" You get the idea. I got it, too, but it Brad's vision (with a few suggestions from me) and not their vision.

We've received wonderful feedback and achieved significant success with The Maps of Gettysburg--even though a reviewer in Library Journal spent 2/3s of his valuable word space to chastise us for using an indefinite article ("the") in the front of the title, because it would mislead readers into believing the book offers "official" maps of the battle. (sigh)

Appreciating the concept that nothing succeeds like success, I decided to leverage up on the idea of covering campaigns in this unique fashion. As a result, we are launching the Savas Beatie Atlas Series. Think of The Maps of Gettysburg as version 1.0. We have “upgraded” the concept by incorporating suggestions from readers (thank you, keep them coming), and adding a few of our own idea. We now have several major Civil War-related “2.0” titles underway. One of them is The Maps of Chickamauga.

There are several other "applications" for this concept that are also moving ahead at full speed, but I am not quite at liberty to talk about them at this time. As soon as I am able, I will do so.



markwilensky said...

As a classroom teacher, I am always amazed when I come across scholarly or educational books with substandard maps. Most people are visual learners--and having good graphics, of any sort, seems like it should be obvious. And yet, good maps are a rarity still. Hopefully, your company jumpstarts the rest of the industry.

Mark Wilensky
Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine www.newcommonsensebook.com

Skap said...


I think we have all witnessed the popular recognition of maps as an integral part of a history book (especially military history). From the perspective of a rare book dealer, this is a return to another day, and not the introduction of a new day. Consider the amazing use of maps in Bigalow's Chancellorsville.

The truth that Brad Gottfried has hit upon is that graphics (in this case maps) must be an integral part of the story, and not just illustrations to break up the narrative. I think one could compare Maps of Gettysburg to William Frassinito's analysis of photographs.

It is a new way of looking at a battle, but it is also part of an evolution that has deep roots.