As anyone knows who has seen Matthew Brady’s photos, the art of photography was well advanced by the time of the Civil War. But it wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that there existed technology capable of reproducing photos in newspapers and magazines. In order to provide their readers with illustrations, publishers during the Civil War period relied on wood engravings that reproduced artists’ sketches. Daily and weekly newspapers such as Harper’s and Frank Leslie's published thousands of wood engravings of individuals, battles, ships, and various sites associated with the war. Unfortunately, the engravings were cut into end-grain blocks of unseasoned boxwood that cracked when they dried, rendering them useless for future reproduction. Even at the time, the actual printing was a couple of generations removed from the wood blocks, which would have been destroyed on the press. The wooden blocks were used to make wax molds, which provided a basis for metal electrotypes, and it was these that eventually carried ink to paper.
During the 1890s the process of photoengraving had advanced to the point where it became commercially feasible to photograph and reproduce the Civil War illustrations of thirty years before. In 1896, Mrs. Frank Leslie issued a collection of the engravings from the old Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly under the editorship of Louis Shepheard Moat. There were other collections issued during the 1890s including an important assemblage of articles and engravings compiled by Gen. Marcus Joseph Wright (CSA), assisted by the Civil War historian Col. Benjamin La Bree and James P. Boyd, Commissioner of the War Department. Yet another compilation was issued by Edward J. Stanley in 1898. The matted prints being offered here are from these collections and guaranteed to be over 100 years old.