October 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

No, General Sherman Will Not Blurb Your Book

On November 2, 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman put pen to paper in order to decline endorsing an acquaintance's book. "...I did...partially examine the bo[o]ks sent me but I would not be willing to express...an endorsement. The book like all others of which very many are sent to me must work its way into fame by its intrinsic merit..." Who knew book blurbing existing during the Civil War? (NPR recently cited Walt Whitman as one of the first to self-promote with blurbs.)

Swann Sherman.jpgSherman's correspondent was Francis J. Lippitt, and instead of a publicity quote, Sherman offered the author this advice: "...I think after the publication by Congress of the Official Reports of the last war you can combine your learning with the experience gained & illustrate it by recent & modern examples, which will make a Book on strategy most valuable & interesting not only to the General Readers, but to the military." Still, Sherman continued, "I must abstain from giving my name.... But I will on all occasions express to you and others the interest I feel in the General subject. Officers in whom I have a personal interest, who have grown up under my eye & instruction are rapidly turning their swords into pens and all ask my aid, so that to give one & not another the endorsement of my name & opinion would be construed with partiality.... I hope you will be content with the expression of my general approval of your efforts."

In other words, he's had too many requests, and--unlike some modern authors who will blurb just about anything--Sherman simply refuses to oblige. This unusual autograph letter heads to auction at Swann Galleries in New York next week and is estimated to reach $2,000-3,000.

Image via Swann Galleries.