20 January 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 3 comments

Kudos to Drew Wagenhoffer for the post on his blog today.

Drew’s post brought to my attention a print-on-demand publisher that I had never heard of previously, Twin Commonwealth Publishers. Twin Commononwealth focuses on rare works from the Virginia and Kentucky, which is where the name comes from. This company has an exceptionally ugly and not particularly user-friendly website, but it has a really outstanding selection of extremely rare Civil War books to offer. In perusing the list of available titles, I found an extremely rare work on John Hunt Morgan’s Indiana and Ohio Raid by Basil W. Duke that I have been looking for for quite a while. I promptly ordered a copy.

This company does print-on-demand reprints. The owners have scanned the original works, cleaned up the scans, and then uploaded them to a company called LULU, which prints, binds, and ships. According to the LULU web site, it takes about 10 days from placement of order to shipping.

Twin Commonwealth joins Ward House Books, which is a division of Higginson Books, in making these extremely rare books available again in a reasonable and affordable fashion.

We used to publish reprints of regimental histories. In the prior incarnation of my publishing venture, the defunct Van Berg Publishing, we did exclusively reprints. We reprinted three regimental histories: the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry, and the 9th Massachusetts Battery. It’s taken nearly 10 years, but the 6th Pennsylvania has nearly sold out, of a print run of 825 copies. We have less than 50 left. The 9th Massachusetts Battery, also known as Bigelow’s Battery, had an initial print run of 500 copies. We’re into a second printing of it, and it’s been pretty profitable for us. The 9th New York, on the other hand, has been a disaster. Due to spending two thousand dollars to have the book indexed, our per unit price meant we had to slap a $59.95 price tag on it, and we sold about twenty of the things. Even after VanBerg went defunct, we still have to sell it for a higher price than I might otherise like, and I still have several hundred copies of this dog in my garage that I would dearly love not to have to move when we move into the new house this summer.

Then, Ironclad has done one regimental history reprint, that of the 124th New York Infantry, of Devil’s Den fame. Again, it’s a good unit with a storied history, but these books just don’t sell quickly.

All of this led us to make a business decision not to do any more regimental history reprints. First, and foremost, there are too many competitors out there, such as Ward House, and we can’t compete. Second, they tie up too much of our working capital by not turning over quickly enough. Every book stuck in our storage facilities represents dollars that I don’t have available to devote to other projects. Finally, given our prior experience, we just don’t have a desire or appetite to do these any more. It’s just not good business for us at this point.

This brings me back to my original point.

I love regimental histories and old memoirs. At the same time, the first editions can be REALLY expensive, and they also tend to be pretty brittle due to age and the fact that printers were not familiar with the concept of acid-free paper in those days. My greatest fear is to spend a large sum on a first edition book, have to use it in my work, and then ruin it in the process. I would much rather buy a reprint, because who cares if you mess up a reprint? That’s not to say I don’t buy the first editions from time to time–I own two original edition copies of the 1868 regimental history of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry–I do. Rather, much of my library is a working library, purchased because it bears some relation to my work. So, it just makes better business sense for me to use the reprints under those circumstances, and that’s precisely what I do. For this purpose, the more reprints, the better.

Consequently, I’m just thrilled that these companies are out there, filling the niche that guys like me need filled. I just got an order of eight regimental history reprints from Ward House a week or so ago, stuff just not available anywhere else (including the extremely rare history of the 6th New York Cavalry by Hillman A. Hall). These print-on-demand publishers have the wherewithal and the ability to do these books well and inexpensively, and I, for one, am tickled that they’re out there. Keep up the good work, guys, and much success to you.

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Comments

  1. Fri 20th Jan 2006 at 2:50 pm

    You’ve invited people to drop you an email about topics of interest but I could not find it on your web site. Could you send one to me?

    Fred Ray

  2. Harry
    Fri 20th Jan 2006 at 3:13 pm

    Eric,

    I’ll gladly lighten your burden of one copy of the Hawkins Zouave reprint, if the price is right.

    Harry

  3. Fri 20th Jan 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Fred,

    I’ve done so.

    Eric

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