To our immediate right, we have the cover to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (Simon & Schuster), a political history of Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War leadership that was one of the most buzzed-about books last fall (due in no small part to the eager rush on the media’s part to restore Goodwin’s reputation). At the far end, William Marvel’s just-released Mr. Lincoln Goes to War (Houghton Mifflin), which suggests that Lincoln was far from a “political genius,” and in fact not only screwed up opportunities to avoid the war but overreached his constitutional authority while doing it. As you can see, both covers featuer Alexander Hay Ritchie’s 1866 engraving First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation prominently.
So far, our attempts to get in touch with Houghton designer Michaela Sullivan have been unsuccessful, but we’ll keep trying, as there’s undoubtedly a perfectly innocent explanation for how that happened. Production schedules being what they are, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Houghton had already signed off on the design when Goodwin’s book showed up in stores and decided it was too late to go back to the drawing board. And, hey, if you’re going to work with pictures of Lincoln in political action, the Ritchie’s a natural choice… So let’s be clear: Nobody’s accusing anyone of Kaavya-esque perfidy in this case. It’s probably just one of those goofy things that happens sometimes.