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The Phantom Collection of Reconstruction Documents
From Akhil Amar’s The Bill of Rights, page 304:
“By comparison [to those from the Founding], the antislavery and Reconstruction primary sources are not nearly so accessible. If, as this book has argued, much of our modern Constitution comes not from the Creators but from the Reconstructors, there is, I repeat, much work to be done by would-be Kenyons, Storings, Farrands, Bailyns, and Cogans. (Cogan himself is already at work on such a Reconstruction-era compilation…)”
The Bill of Rights first appeared in 1998. According to the Whittier Law School “Guide to the Experts”, Dean Neil Cogan has authored three volumes of The Complete Reconstruction Amendments. According to Amazon.ca, all 3600 pages can be had for $317 Canadian dollars—marked down from $500. The collection is “out of stock” on amazon.co.uk, amazon.fr, and amazon.de (at least, I think that’s what those French and German words mean). Bookfinder.com tells us that the book has an ISBN and offers four sites that purport to sell it.
So far so good, right? Place an order with Canadian Amazon, wait three to six weeks, and voila—Reconstruction primary sources at our fingertips. One problem: the collection doesn’t seem to exist. The Library of Congress knows nothing about it. Neither does the ostensible publisher, Yale University Press.
How can a book with a publication date (September 10, 2006) and an ISBN number not exist? Does this happen often, or only when the collection in question purports to be the authoritative documentary collection on one of the most significant and understudied periods in Constitutional history?
As it turns out, Dean Cogan told us that publishers often reserve a book’s title and ISBN well in advance of actual publication. Dean Cogan’s work on the six-volume project is done; the documents are boxed and awaiting publication somewhere in Yale University Press’ headquarters. But YUP is withholding releasing the book until it can secure a source of funding.
YUP isn’t HarperCollins or some other gigantic firm. As a publishing house attached to a university, the Press has a responsibility to the academic community to release works exactly like this—groundbreaking documentary collections that will be a tremendous aid to academia and the legal profession—whether or not they’ll be a huge source of profit.
We hope that YUP will come around soon and recognize a calling higher than the almighty dollar. Maybe some e-mails or a few phone calls to (203) 432-0960 will help change their minds. But, barring that, is there any person or organization that cares deeply enough about the Constitution to send Yale University Press a big check? CAC, Dean Cogan, and everyone else interested in constitutional history sure would appreciate it…