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Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie, 1st ed., Olive Percival’s copy

The 1st Edition of A Diary From Dixie
Owned by an Important California Bibliophile




Mary Boykin Chesnut’s A Diary from Dixie is a fiery account of her experiences and struggles during the Civil War.

Chesnut, married James Chesnut in 1840. After the wedding, she moved to his plantation in Mulberry, South Carolina. James won the Senate race in 1858.  The couple moved to Washington DC. There, the became friends with Mr. & Mrs. Jefferson Davis.

Both Chesnuts were fierce proponents of the war. James served in the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America, as an aide to President Jefferson Davis and General P.G.T. Beauregard and in the military, earning the rank of general. Mary dedicated her time to serving on the homefront, helping obtain provisions for area hospitals, sewing shirts for soldiers and more. She also wrote in her diary every day. She reported on the people she knew. The diary is full of her keen observations, anecdotes and eye-witness accounts of contemporary life.

After the war, they returned to their ruined plantation and a huge debt. They worked to restore the land and buildings, eventually freeing themselves from their burden.

Both Jefferson and Varina Davis urged Mary to publish her diary. Varina believed it would surpass the popularity of the plantation novels that were in vogue during the era.

Mary would spend many years revising and editing it during the 1880s in preparation for publication. However it was not published in her lifetime.

A Diary from Dixie was published in 1905, nineteen years after her death. Edited and published by a New York publisher (Appleton) it was as successful as Varina Davis believed it would be. There have been three editions. The “restored” edition, edited by C. Van Woodward, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. It is also available here. 

This copy bears the bookplate of Olive Percival. Percival was a multi-talented writer, photographer, gardener, artist, and bibliophile in Los Angeles. Although she earned her living as an insurance clerk, she wrote for a variety of magazines, authored several books, and was sought after as a lecturer on gardens, New England antiques, Japanese ceramics, and children’s books, among other subjects. Much of her collection resides today in three important California Libraries, including The Huntington, where 875 of her photographs and more occupy alone . She also has a rose named after her; one is planted in the White House Rose Garden.

V.g.. minor soiling to boards,  tailband wear, front hinge starting. Bright gilt!

Chesnut, Mary Boykin. Diary From Dixie. New York. (1905): 424p., illus, index., 1st ed.

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Additional information

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions 10 × 7 × 4 in

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