FW: Pickett's History
- fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...
From: Capitol Book [mailto:tmu@...]
Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2003 10:28 AM
To: Advertiser Column List
Subject: March 30 Advertiser column
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER COLUMN March 30, 2003
Here we are, barely into 2003, and already the Alabama publishing event of
the century may have occurred. Well, perhaps it would be more correct to
call it the "printing" event of the century, but that's a matter for the
semanticians to decide. As for us, all we know is that our long, long wait
is over, and our all-time very favorite 19th century nonfiction Alabama book
is finally back where it belongs, on bookstore shelves. It belongs on your
The book is Albert James Pickett's "History of Alabama, and Incidentally of
Georgia and Mississippi, From the Earliest Period," but everybody who knows
it and loves it, just calls it "Pickett's History." First published in 1851
by Walker and James Publishers of Charleston, South Carolina, the book went
out of print - well, actually the tortured publishing history of the book is
pretty interesting, and it's hardly ever really been out of print, but it
surely has been hard to find for most of the past, say, 100 years..
Since copyright law in those days provided authors only a 28 year term of
protection for their works, Pickett's copyright soon expired, and for the
past 124 years a succession of publishers has valiantly attempted to keep
this gem of American history and literature in print. There was a new
edition published in 1878, combining, as all future editions would, the
2-volume set into a single volume. And in fact, except for an edition
published in 1900 by Dr. Thomas Owen, which included not only Pickett's
text, but also Owens's "Annals of Alabama," every subsequent edition of the
book has been no more than a "facsimile" of the 1878 edition.
Which brings us to this newest edition, just published by Montgomery's River
City Press. It, too, is a facsimile edition. In fact, they actually
disassembled a copy of the 1962 edition (yes, itself a facsimile of the 1878
edition), scanned each page into a computer, enlarged the type, hit "Enter,"
and voila! They had their book. Except it couldn't have been that easy,
since they've been telling us since about 1999 that the book was due "soon."
But easy or not, and late or not, we all owe the folks at River City a huge
debt of gratitude for finally getting Pickett's back into circulation.
But enough about all that. The really great part of Pickett's is that it's
just such a fascinating read, beginning with the very first episode from
1539, when Hernando De Soto, having just landed in Florida, on his way to
"discover" Alabama, stops to enslave a few Indians, and is just about to
have one killed when he (the Indian) cries out (in Spanish), "I am a
Christian. Slay me not!" Turns out he was just a guy from Seville who'd been
captured by the Indians years before, threatened with death by burning,
saved by the entreaties of the chief's daughter, but then forced to guard,
for 24 hours a day, and for 12 years, the burial temple of the Indians. He
was surely the only person in Florida glad to see the Spaniards arrive!
Not long after this we're treated to what can only be called an epic
description of the horrible battle between De Soto and the great Black
Warrior Chief Tuskaloosa, at Maubila, and for the next 669 pages the action
never stops, whether it's the Spanish fighting the Indians, or the French
fighting the Spanish, or the Choctaws fighting the Creeks, or William
Bartram's showing up, or the amazing story of the pursuit and capture of the
fleeing Aaron Burr, or..... well, suffice it to say it is not possible to
open this book to any page, and once begun reading, to stop. ($49.95
Those folks at Huntingdon College have done it again, or are about to.
They're bringing North Carolina writer Joan Medlicott to town for a one day
workshop on Friday, April 11, 9:30 A.M.-3 P.M. Medlicott's three novels,
beginning with "The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love" tell the
heartwarming stories of three women of a certain age who build a home for
themselves and a future together. They are all great favorites of our
customers. Medlicott's workshop is for both readers and writers, for women
at points of change and challenge and those who want to write- whether fact
or fiction. The workshop takes place at Huntingdon, and there is a $89 fee
that includes the workshop, luncheon and reading. For more information call
Pam Stein, 334-833-4522.
Capitol Book & News Company
1140 E. Fairview Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36106