I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of Robert J. Younger, the owner and publisher of Morningside Books and Gettysburg Magazine. Those of us who care about Civil War books and Civil War history owe Bob Younger a great debt.
Sweet Old Bob, or SOB, as he liked to call himself, was an irascible, difficult fellow. I seriously doubt that I’ve ever met a more stubborn man than Bob. He had a retail store but didn’t want people coming into it. Go figure. If he liked you, he would give you the shirt off his back. If he didn’t like you–and the list of Bob Younger’s enemies is enormous–forget it. If he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t sell you a book. If he was in a bad mood, he wouldn’t sell you a book. He didn’t care if it was costing him business.
I’ve actually been in both camps. I started out as a favorite of his, and then, as the bearer of bad news, I became the enemy. A group I led tried to buy Morningside a number of years ago, and due to the health of Bob’s business, we couldn’t finance the deal with a bank, and the transaction died on the vine because he wouldn’t seller finance the entire deal. Instead of recognizing that he had a role in the deal dying–it was the health of his business, not anything I did or said, that caused multiple lenders to decline to do the deal–I became the bad guy and hence an enemy. Never mind the fact that his magazine had published five of my articles and that I was one of his mainstays. Never mind that I spent $1500 a year buying books from him. It didn’t matter. I was now one of the enemy. I never published another word in his magazine after that.
In spite of all of that, Bob made it possible for dozens of otherwise out of print books to become available again. He virtually invented the Civil War book reprinting business himself, and did some books that are still not available anywhere else, even to this day. The regimental history of the 8th Illinois Cavalry is just one that comes to mind immediately. His reprints included the Officials Records (both army and naval), the Confederate Veteran, the Southern Historical Society Papers, and lots of the Neale books. An old printer, Bob often did the printing himself and by hand. He also brought out some quality new titles under the Morningside imprint such as the James E. Taylor Scrapbook of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, which is one of my favorite books. His books were never pretty to look at, but I don’t buy books because they’re pretty. I buy them because of what’s in them, and he published some good ones, such as Ed Bearss’ trilogy on the Vicksburg Campaign and also Ed’s study of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.
Bob was also responsible for Gettysburg Magazine. Although the quality of the articles has gone down in the past several years, it still remains the premier publication for those interested in the Gettysburg Campaign. It was entirely his baby, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to it now that he’s gone. I hope that it will live on.
So, although I had my issues with Bob, I never lost my respect for him. I recognize his place in this book business of ours, and I had to recognize his passing.
Rest in peace, SOB. I wouldn’t want to be St. Peter today….I imagine you’re giving him hell just like you did with the rest of us.Scridb filter