Confederate Imprints:
Publishing in the Civil War South

Confederate Imprints in PBO | Major Bibliographies | Sources and Selected Readings
Related Online Resources


The Confederate
(Mobile: S. H. Goetzel , 1863)

When several southern states seceded from the United States in 1860 and 1861, the Confederate nation they formed was forced to produce on its own the materials it had previously obtained from northern and overseas manufacturers. Books were no exception.

Books had been largely imported into the South prior to 1861. Once the Civil War began, established southern publishers had to step up their production, often putting their presses to work on materials previously outside of their specialty. New publishers also emerged to meet the rising demand. Both faced tremendous challenges over the course of the war.

The short-lived Confederacy produced more than 7,000 books, pamphlets, broadsides, maps, pieces of sheet music, pictures, and periodicals. All of the publications produced in Confederate states not held by Union forces are known as Confederate imprints. Numerous bibliographies published in the mid- to late twentieth century exhaustively list these imprints, evidencing their importance to both avid collectors and historians.


Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States
(Richmond: West & Johnston, 1864)


The first half of the Civil War represents the pinnacle of Confederate printing. As the various states seceded to form a new nation, and as their infant country entered into war with the Union states, Confederate presses churned out an astounding number of government documents (both for the CSA and individual states) and political pamphlets. However as Richard Harwell, the preeminent scholar of Confederate imprints, points out, Confederate publishers devoted a large proportion of energy to the “non-essentials of everyday publishing.”

Plenty of fiction found its way to southern bookshelves, thanks in part to a developing genre of distinctively southern literature. Novels, poetry, and drama poured from southern pens, and consequently southern presses, to fill southern readers' need for entertainment. Confederate fiction appeared in full-length book and broadside form, particularly from the presses of West and Johnston in Richmond. Periodicals such as Southern Literary Messenger, The Magnolia Weekly, Southern Field and Fireside, and Countryman carried southern literature as well.


The Concordia : a collection of sacred music
(Louisville: L. A. Civill & Wood, 1861)

Confederate imprints also provided southerners with printed music, through songbooks, sheet music, and broadside ballads. Songsters, inexpensive collections of secular song lyrics, were not a popular book genre in the south until after the Civil War began. However, Confederate publishers put out more songsters during the four years of war than they had during the preceding four decades. The lyrics held within the songsters, many of which were patriotic, helped to keep up southern morale.


Rifle and Infantry Tactics
(Mobile: S. H. Goetzel, 1863)

Soldiers comprised much of the audience for morale-boosting publications such as songsters. They also were the target readers for military books, one of the largest genres of Confederate publishing. Many of these were manuals intended to help civilians make the transition into army life. Other military publications included broadsides (such as those calling volunteers to arms) and regimental histories. One of the most famous military books of the Confederate era was Gen. W. J. Hardee's Rifle and Infantry Tactics, for which the Confederate Congress granted Mobile, Ala. publisher
S. H. Goetzel
a special copyright in 1863.

Educational texts represented another major genre of Confederate imprints. Nearly three-fourths of the Confederate juvenile publications were textbooks of some sort, including primers, spellers, and readers. Prior to the Civil War, most school books were published in New York, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. Southern schools were forced to find used copies of the popular northern textbooks until presses in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama began printing them. A majority of these texts were reprints or adaptations of northern texts that had been popular prior to the war, although some publishers generated original material, usually covering regional subjects. Houston Telegraph publisher E. H. Cushing took the lead in producing original school books for Texas children.


Our own school arithmetic
Greensboro, North Carolina: Sterling, Campbell and Albright, 1863)


Another major genre of Confederate imprints was religious publishing. Sermons, Bibles, devotionals, hymnals, catechisms, Sunday school books, and church periodicals represented a large portion of Confederate publishing. Bibles were one of the few northern products allowed into the South, but not until the later years of war. During the Bible trade ban, some Bibles were brought through blockades from England, and others were printed by southern publishers. The Nashville-based Southwestern Publishing House printed the first and only complete Bible (both Old and New Testaments) in the Confederacy in 1861. Later efforts at publishing southern Bibles were thwarted by the same conditions that hampered publishing throughout the South as the war went on.

The same Union trade bans and European blockades that prevented the South from obtaining books from outside of the region also precluded the importation of raw materials such as paper, ink, and leather that publishers required. Printers advertised for southerners to send in rags and items such as old ledgers and cashbooks for the production of paper. In the absence of fresh printing paper, clever publishers often printed more ephemeral pieces, such as broadsides and periodicals, on wallpaper or coarse wrapping paper.


New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
(Augusta, Georgia: Confederate States Bible Society, 1862)


Bookmakers often bound books in wallpaper as well, in the absence of leather. Ink makers sprung up across the south, particularly in Georgia, but could not meet the demand of all the South's publishers. Eventually, Union troops destroyed many of the manufacturing plants the South did have, leaving those southern publishers that survived without raw materials.

Publishers faced other problems as well. As more and more southern men joined the Confederate army, printers faced personnel shortages. Wartime destruction caused transportation and communication problems that printers' abilities to receive information or disseminate their products. These obstacles finally proved insurmountable to Confederate publishers, and the production of Confederate imprints came to a grinding halt before the official dissolution of the Confederacy.

Fortunately, despite looting, building destruction, and the more urgent concerns that plagued the minds of southerners during the final years of the war and Reconstruction, many Confederate imprints remain to this day in libraries, archives, and the homes of diligent collectors. These extant materials provide a record not only of Civil War life and literature but also of the determination and resourcefulness of Confederate publishers.

Searching the Collection for Confederate Imprints

Click here to search the PBO Database for Confederate imprints.

Major Bibliographies

Crandall, Marjorie Lyle. Confederate Imprints: A Checklist Based Principally on the Collection of the Boston Athenaeum. Boston: The Boston Atheneaum, 1955.

Harwell, Richard. Confederate belles-lettres, a bibliography and a finding list of the fiction, poetry, drama, songsters, and miscellaneous literature published in the Confederate States of America. Hattiesburg , Miss.: The Book Farm, 1941.

Harwell, Richard. The Confederate Hundred; A Bibliophilic Selection of Confederate Books. Urbana , Ill. : Beta Phi Mu, 1964.

Harwell, Richard. Confederate Imprints. Wendell, N.C.: Broadfoot's Bookmark, 1982.

Harwell, Richard. Cornerstones of Confederate Collecting. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press for the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1953.

Harwell, Richard. In Tall Cotton: The 200 Most Important Confederate Books. Austin: Jenkins Pub. Co., 1978.

Harwell, Richard. More Confederate Imprints. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1957.

Parrish, T. Michael and Robert M. Willingham. Confederate Imprints: A Bibliography of Southern Publications from Secession to Surrender. Austin, TX : Jenkins Publishing Co., n.d.

Rudolph, E. L. Confederate Broadside Verse: A Bibliography and Finding List of Confederate broadside ballads and songs. New Braunfels, Texas: Book Farm, 1950.

Sources and Selected Readings

Abel, E. Lawrence. Confederate Sheet Music. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004.

Albright, James W. “Books Made in Dixie.” Southern Historical Society Papers 3 (September 1916): 57-60.

Bell, Robert. S.H. Goetzel, publisher: Mobile, Alabama, 1875-1865. San Francisco: Book Club of California, 1969.

Daniel, W. Harrison. “Bible Publication and Procurement in the Confederacy.” The Journal of Southern History 24, 2 (1958): 191-201.

Davis, O. L., Jr. “E. H. Cushing: Textbooks in Confederate Texas.” Library Chronicle of the University of Texas 8, 2 (1966): 46-50.

Detlefsen, Ellen Gay. “Printing in the Confederacy, 1861-1865: A Southern Industry in Wartime.” PhD Dissertation, Columbia U. , 1975.

Harwell, Richard. “The Cause that Refreshes: Reading, ‘Riting, and Rebellion.” College and Research Libraries, July 1959, 281-288.

Heartman, Charles F. What Constitutes a Confederate imprint? Preliminary Suggestions for Bibliographers and Catalogers. Hattiesburg, Miss.: The Book Farm, 1939.

Hoogerwerf, Frank W. Confederate Sheet-music Imprints. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Institute for Studies in American Music, Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, 1984.

Hummel, Jr., Ray O. Southeastern Broadsides before 1877. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1971.

Kennerly, Sarah Law. "Confederate juvenile imprints: Children's Books and Literature Published in the Confederate States of America, 1861-1866." PhD Dissertation, University of Michigan, 1956.

London , Lawrence F. “Confederate Literature and its Publishers,” in Joseph Sitterson, ed., Studies in Southern History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957.

Schultz, Kirsten Marelle. “Secessia's Song Books: The History of Confederate Songsters.” PhD dissertation, U. of Toronto, 2002.

Willingham, Robert M., Jr. “Confederate Printing in Augusta.” Richmond County History 17, 2 (1985): 5-13.

Related Online Resources

Arkansas Civil War Imprints, University of Arkansas Libraries

Confederate Imprint Collection, Rosanna Blake Library of Confederate History, Marshall University

Confederate States of America Documents, University of Iowa Libraries

Confederate States Imprints, Boston Anthenaem

Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina

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