“Page Perfect” OR Available

by Fred Ray on September 23, 2011 · 3 comments

The Historical Archive has what they are calling a “page perfect” version of the Official Record, which comes on two DVDs.

The gold standard reference series for Civil War enthusiasts is the 128 volume The War of the Rebellion a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. It is the most complete reference for the brave men who fought on both sides of the war. But the problem is that a print set is very expensive and can be difficult to fully search.

With the advent of computers and OCR technology, several manufacturers produced relatively inexpensive versions of the OR on CD media. These versions had an advantage over the printed set. They allowed users to easily search the volumes. But there are huge disadvantages of these versions. The OCR process is very spotty. It causes many spelling errors, loses critical formatting on tables and of course loses all the images that are in the print version of the OR.

To solve these limitations, THA New Media began an ambitious project in 2009 to build a digital version of the OR that has all the advantages of the print edition – full and accurate formatting of all text and tables and inclusion of all images – as well as all the strengths of the digital versions – i.e. being fully searchable.

After two years of work, the Master Edition of the OR was born and is now available to all Civil War enthusiasts for a very reasonable $29.95. This master work delivers the full experience of having a printed set of the 128 volumes of the OR as well as the ease of searchability people expect from digital products.

Things have certainly changed, and for the better. When I first started out doing CW research you had to find a place with the OR—all 128 volumes of it—and pore through the volumes one by one, then either copy or transcribe what you wanted. The indexing left a bit to be desired and was confusing to use. Now you can buy the whole thing on CD or DVD for under $30, search for a word or phrase instantly, then copy off what you need.

The Archive also has much more CW-related material, including the complete works of Abe Lincoln, Battles and Leaders, a slew of regimental histories, and much more.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that if you’re going to work from a CD or DVD you should consider using a virtual drive. This is a program that replicates the action of the physical drive with software. To use it you download an image of the CD/DVD to your hard drive, then “load” it into the virtual drive.

There are a number of advantages to this system. First and biggest is speed—the difference will amaze you and you’ll wonder why you ever put up with that clunky, grinding physical drive. You can find things…instantly.

The other big advantage is that you don’t have to constantly switch plastic cookies in and out of the drive. They won’t get scratched and you can leave them in a secure place. If your drive crashes you just reload them. If you use more than one on a regular basis you can just create more than one virtual drive and leave both loaded for when you need them. I used to leave the OR and the OR maps both loaded so I could switch back and forth as necessary.

Virtual drive software is cheap (typically less than $25, some are free) and well worth a trial.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Freiheit September 25, 2011 at 10:25 am

Fred,

Looks good compared to earlier versions but images look to be copyrighted so they cannot be downloaded and used in a book.

Maybe only Google Books has images of the OR online which are not copyrighted?

Larry

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Gil R. September 26, 2011 at 10:19 am

So how accurate is this OCR version? A few years ago I bought another that was so full of errors that I stopped using it. Is this truly error-free, or is there still a frustration factor, but just less of one?

I’m hesitant to make a purchase of another digitized OR. After all, “Fool me once…”

Reply

Fred Ray September 26, 2011 at 10:41 am

Good question, Gil. I don’t know — supposedly this version was specifically created and checked to fix this. I am planning to order a copy and will try to post a report when I’ve had a chance to use it.

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