The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999 Page: 399
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JEIJS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
The Alamo: An Illustrated History. By George Nelson. (Dry Frio Canyon, Texas:
Aldine Press, 1997. Pp. v+105. Illustrations, acknowledgments, introduc-
tion, bibliography. ISBN o-9659159-o-5. $19.95, paper).
The phrase "The Alamo" conjures images of bloodshed, war, defeat, virtue,
heroism, myth, mission bells-and controversy. George Nelson has chosen to
catalog in a chronological fashion events associated with the building of the
Alamo and its geographical setting from prehistoric times to last year. The text,
however, is not the strength of the work. Rather, it is the images that speak to us,
that tell us of the changes endured by the most well-known building in Texas.
Nelson has scoured sources throughout this country and abroad for images to
provide a comprehensive collection of works illustrating the Alamo. In a series
of reconstructions, moreover, he has illustrated in bird's-eye views what the
Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero) may have looked like in 1745, 1785,
1836, 1842, and 1861. These reconstructions add immeasurably to the reading
public's understanding of "What was a mission?" and "What was the Alamo like?"
He succeeds where many literary works (inventories, descriptions, and historical
prose) fail. While we may never know the exact accuracy of his illustrations, they
nonetheless are a significant contribution to the history of the development of
the eighteenth-century missions of Texas, to the battles fought at the Alamo in
1835 and 1836, and to the changes suffered by the old mission buildings and its
The strength of the work, however, is substantially marred by the lack of good
editorial direction. Transitions from section to section and within paragraphs,
consistency in spelling, numerous misspellings, and so on, should have been cor-
rected before printing an otherwise attractive book. There are two failings that
must be pointed out--not just for this case but for works aimed at the general
public. First, sensitivity to the Spanish language should be expressed by correct
spelling of surnames and the use of diacritical marks. Many fonts are now avail-
able to remedy this point. Second, credit to the original source of an illustration
should be as complete as possible. While the author does cite where he located a
document, he does not (usually) credit the Mexican or Spanish archival source
that may hold the manuscript original.Just because an institution in this country
has a copy of an archival document does not necessarily give that institution nor
its researchers the right to print it. Complete citations would have eliminated
one misleading caption. The item identified as "1837 landownership [sic]
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999, periodical, 1999; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/m1/456/?rotate=90: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.