01 December 2005 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 10 comments

In my mind, maps and illustrations are important elements of every book that I buy. If, for instance, it’s not an action that I am familiar with, maps are absolutely indispensable to understanding the action. Here’s an example of what I mean here. Some months ago, I wrote a review of a recent book on the Battle of Bentonville. Bentonville, a favorite of mine, is a large and complex action. One of my favorite Civil War books of the past decade or so is Mark L. Bradley’s excellent Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville. One of the things that makes this book so good is the inclusion of a superb and extremely detailed map series by Mark Anderson Moore, who does some of the finest maps of anyone in the business. Some of Mark Moore’s maps can be found on the Bentonville Battleground’s web site. Mark Moore’s maps are so good, in fact, that the map series was published as a separate volume, which is indispensable to anyone wanting to stomp the battlefield. Not surprisingly, both of these books were published by Savas Publishing, Ted Savas’ prior publishing venture.

The same thing also holds true for Chris Fonvielle’s terrific study of the Wilmington Campaign, which also features a large and remarkable map series by Mark Moore. Again, Mark Moore’s maps were published in a separate volume this is similarly indispensable to touring the sites associated with the campaign.

By contrast, Broadwater’s book, which was published by the Mercer University Press, by comparison, does not contain a single map. If I did not (a) have Mark Moore’s maps available to me and (b) have some familiarity with it from touring the battlefield with Mark Bradley twice, there is absolutely no way that I could have made heads or tails out of Broadwater’s book. That this book was published by a respected university press makes it all the more stunning that there isn’t a single map in this book.

I tend to follow the philosophy of Ted Savas, of Savas-Beatie Publishing, which is that one can never have enough maps in a book. That’s the primary reason why I approached Ted to publish my forthcoming work on the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads–Ted was wiling to go with my entire map series, which is something like 25 maps. We do the same thing at Ironclad–within reason, I will let the authors have carte blanche on maps, even if it does add pages to the book. I would rather have more pages with lots of good, usable maps than a smaller, cheaper book that LOOKS cheaper because we scrimped on important things like maps.

I have always believed that good maps are absolutely essential to making a book usable to the user, and the more good maps, the better. Cutting back on maps to save pages is the sort of corner-cutting that makes me absolutely crazy. I tip my hat to Ted for doing things the right way.

Tomorrow, I will address the issue of illustrations.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Russell Bonds
    Thu 01st Dec 2005 at 8:35 pm

    Eric:

    I absolutely agree with you on maps–they are essential.

    I know there are many experienced writers who read your “Rantings,” but some of the novices (like me) might appreciate hearing more about how maps are done for good CW books. Do you sketch them yourselves and then find a talented cartographer? How are the map-makers compensated? Why are graphic designers and cartographers sometimes credited, and sometimes not? What’s the process like? (Etc.)

    I learn something every day from your site. Keep up the great work.

    Russ

  2. Thu 01st Dec 2005 at 8:47 pm

    Russ,

    I’m glad to hear that you find something useful in my rantings. Thanks for indulging them.

    To answer your questions…

    I have two cartographers that I have worked with extensively, Blake Magner and John Heiser. Blake has done the maps for five of my books (and is about to start on another), and John has done three (sadly, John is no longer doing maps). I have good working relationships with these fellows, and they know what I’m looking for in a map.

    For instance, when we were working on the maps for my book on the Battle of Trevilian Station, Blake spent two days on the battlefield with me, and we stomped it together, so he could get the terrain features correct. That’s the only time we’ve done that, but it was invaluable. Both Blake and John have tremendous personal knowledge, and I rarely have to provide them with baseline maps. With Blake, if I give him my manuscript, he takes it and runs with it.

    Typically, I pay a per-map fee. John and Blake are both very reasonable in what they ask per map, and they do good work. I always insist that they be credited on their maps–even though they are work for hire and I own the copyrights to them, it’s their work, and the world should know that.

    Normally, they will provide me with drafts of the maps, which I will review carefully and then changes are made. As an example, on a map of Stuart’s shelling of Carlisle on the night of July 1, 1863, John had the Cumberland County court house misplaced. Having gone to college in Carlisle, I was well-acquainted with the proper location, pointed it, John fixed it, and that was that. I sign off on the maps, they bill me, and I pay them.

    A good cartographer can make or break a book.

    Eric

  3. Paul Taylor
    Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 7:27 am

    Eric,

    What’s your opinion on a new book using maps from 19th-century CW books? OK as long as the maps are accurate? Or, should a “new” work contain “new” maps?

    BTW, you’ve done an excellent job with your blog! It’s now one of my daily surfing stops.

    Paul

  4. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 8:54 am

    You keep referring to the Monroe’s Crossroads book as “forthcoming”, but Amazon seems to think it was published in October. Is Amazon confused? When is it due?

  5. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 9:24 am

    Paul,

    Many thanks, and I’m glad you find something worthwhile in my rantings.

    As for maps, I would prefer new maps that reflect the current state of scholarship, but as long as they are factually and historically accurate, I’m not opposed to using historical maps, either.

    Eric

  6. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 9:25 am

    Mitch,

    The book is completely laid out. Some of the maps needed tweaking, and the cartographer is wrapping that up. As soon as he’s finished, it’s ready to go to the printer. We have reason to believe–and hope–that he will wrap up in the next few days and that it can go to the printer some time next week.

    Eric

  7. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Eric,

    I couldn’t agree with you more about maps. I assume you’ll say something similar about illustrations. For me, books (including my own) almost can’t have enough maps. There’s some compromise between what an author envisions and what a publisher will allow, but there’s no excuse other than cheapness if a book has no maps or too few.

    As you know, with my recent magazine articles, I’ve been working extensively with another respected cartographer, Steve Stanley of Colonial Design in Gettysburg. Steve is famous for the maps he does for the CWPT. For my two most recent articles in “America’s Civil War” magazine (Buford at Gettysburg and Elijah White’s 35th Battalion VA Cavalry) I had to create one map for each from scratch. Neither scenario had ever been mapped before. I started out by taking a large piece of blank paper and literally drawing the whole thing by hand. I’m absolutely no mapmaker (Jed Hotchkiss would have killed me in my sleep where I on his staff!) but when I sent them to Steve, he made wonderful maps of them. Drawing a map that has never been done before is nearly as difficult as writing of an event that’s never been treated previously.

    As you said, maps make or break a book, and I’d submit the same is with articles. Good maps are the next best thing to actually being on the ground (no replacement of course, but next best). Good maps are as essential as the text itself, and without them a book is often rendered virtually worthless.

    J.D. Petruzzi

  8. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Paul,
    I know my opinion doesn’t matter but I have strong preference that all maps should be original to the work, the result of a tight collaboration between the writer and the cartographer to ensure the highest level of integration of the text with the maps. I just love it when the maps can be “read” almost like a visual reinforcing summary of the text rather than just a simple image. I think the 19th century maps are too static and I have never felt satisfied when maps from other works are borrowed….or stolen 🙁

    Drew

  9. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Mitch,
    it’s been my experience that amazon dates are usually quite good if no delays occur, but if delays do occur, especially long ones, they tend not to update regularly if at all.

    Drew

  10. Fri 02nd Dec 2005 at 2:31 pm

    J. D.

    Steve Stanley does fabulous maps, and I hope to use him on one of my current projects. And I agree with you about maps in magazine articles, too.

    Eric

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