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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"The American Past" by Roger Butterfield

This is the book I mentioned in one of my previous posts.

I bought this from National Bookstore’s “Previously Owned Books” (or P.O.B.) in Quezon Avenue a few years ago for less than P200.00 (P150.00 if I remember correctly).

Just a few days after I bought this, someone approached me offering to buy it… that was after he saw it on my table and asked me where I got it and how much I bought it for. He offered to buy it for P1,500.00, I think, but I declined the offer.

In my opinion, it’s a beautiful book… but that goes for only as far as its physical qualities are concerned. And (I just gotta mention this), I love the smell of old books (or any old reading material for that matter).

I have not yet found the time to read it yet, so, I can’t say anything more about it. But I have browsed through it quite a few times and the images are simply amazing!

I tried looking for more information about it and its author, Roger Butterfield, online, but all I was able to find was this article on TIME’s website:

Gift-Wrapped History
Monday, Nov. 03, 1947

THE AMERICAN PAST (476 pp.)—Roger Butterfield—Simon & Schuster ($10).

The American Past is history gift-wrapped for readers who ordinarily find the subject unattractive. A picture story of U.S. politics and personalities from 1775 to 1945, the book is presumably (at $10) a carriage-trade item, but Publishers Simon and Schuster expect it to sell like crêpes suzettes.

The book contains 1,000 admirably selected photographs and cartoons, 125,000 words of text. The text and captions are in a lively, LIFE-like manner (Butterfield is an ex-LIFE editor).

The American Past combines the well-documented events of U.S. history with their human underpinnings: Washington borrowing money to make the trip to New York City for his first inauguration; John Quincy Adams bathing naked in the Potomac ; Wilson nibbling crackers while pecking out his war message to Congress; Jackson, when asked if he had any regrets in his life, admitting that he had two: "He had been unable to shoot Henry Clay, or to hang John C. Calhoun."

The American Past is almost exclusively focused on politics and politicians, sheds only an occasional gleam on the high spots of U.S. social history. But on U.S. politics, it is a first-rate picture book.


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