Cannonball Read #17: Signing Their Lives Away01/10/2010
Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence is an interesting little book. The library copy has no plasticine dust jacket – not even the paper jackets you find in Borders. It’s just the hard cover, designed to look like an old, weathered book with the title in “gilt” on the spine. Unfortunately for Signing Their Lives Away, it’s another one that I read in dribs and drabs, particularly because it lends itself to that type of reading.
With a chapter dedicated to each of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, grouped by state, the short biographies are quick, discrete reads that are enjoyable. I have to admit, though, that I had a hard time keeping track of all the signers. In fact, I don’t know that I retained much.
I did go back and read the New Jersey delegation’s biographies though:
- Abraham Clark: The Signer Whose Sons Were Imprisoned
- John Hart: The Signer Who Slept in Caves
- Francis Hopkinson: The Signer Who Designed the US Flag
- Richard Stockton: The Only Signer Who Recanted the Declaration
- John Witherspoon: The Signer Who Was Also a Minister
One point on the layout of the book too. They make a lot about the signers actual signatures – heading each chapter with the names as written. However, they are a bit hard to read, due to penmanship, quill pens, and the style of writing of the day. I would add a better listing of the name, perhaps with the details included at the beginning of each chapter (birth, death, age at signing, etc.) This was a hard book to keep track of during the holidays, but I gave it my best shot.