We began work on this project in 1988. Following a lead from a publishing colleague, I contacted an antiquarian book dealer, who was able to acquire the ten bound volumes of the Illustrated London News that encompassed the Civil War years. Each volume covers six months: January - June and July - December. The newspaper was published every Saturday and, of course, contained a great deal more than the news from America. Our plan was to go through the volumes line by line and select all the material that pertained to the Civil War, American social history, and political history.
We started the selection of material, photocopying the requisite pages, and rekeying the text from the selected passages. The first volume and part of the second had been finished before the computer hard drive crashed. In the move to Georgia, the disks disappeared.
In 2000, we partnered with the Beck Center in order to produce an electronic version of the American material. We still had to photocopy the chosen pages and mark off the passages selected. However, after rekeying the text from the first volume, scanning technology had so improved that the pages could be effectively scanned thereafter. The Beck Center staff used optical character recognition (OCR) to produce a digital version of the text, which they then proofread and encoded using the Text Encoding Initiative standard.
We photographed the images using a large-format camera with a Phase One scanning back. The library stores the images as 300 dpi, 24-bit color tiffs; the site presents them as jpegs.
Bound volumes of newspapers from the nineteenth century, much like magazines of the period, often vary from one copy to another. The title pages in the volumes from which this material has been drawn were added when the weekly issues were bound. On the verso of some title pages is an index to the engravings for the six-month period, though most of the volumes contain a separate index page with the engravings listed on both recto and verso. Many publications had special supplements, issues of different sizes, and loose folded supplements, sometimes in color. This particular set of volumes seems to include all the special supplements, which continue the pagination of the weekly issues. What are not present are the infrequently issued loose supplements, often folded maps or colored engravings. Though these would be of interest, the contemporary editorials, news items, firsthand reports from America, and the spirited illustrations, usually based on sketches taken at the scene, provide a compelling and remarkably even-handed portrayal of the period.
The material was originally published in an 11" x 15 ¾" format in three columns and many different type sizes and fonts. For greater ease in reading, this version does not retain those variations in size and style. The text has been proofread at least twice against the original. Volume number, issue number, page number, and date (month, day, and year) of the original precede each entry. The illustrations adhere to the placement in the text of the newspaper as closely as possible.