When a copy of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America: Maine in World War I” landed on my desk last fall, 100 years after America entered the war, it raised several questions.

I first started reviewing the “Images of America” series in the mid-1990s when that company was based in New Hampshire. It was then a subsidiary of England’s Chalford Publishing. Beginning in 1993, each title had a uniform number of pages and sepia-colored illustrations – usually vintage snapshots or postcards. At that time, the influx of historical images seemed clever and cost-effective, but over the years, the quality of the individual books proved decidedly mixed.

The arrival of a new title documenting Maine’s entry into the First World War – co-written by Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. and Jason C. Libby – seemed a good time not only to consider the book itself, but also to take a fresh look at the series and its evolution. Arcadia, now based in South Carolina, has a total of 14,338 imprints, with 245 directly pertaining to Maine. Walk into any contemporary bookstore and you will see ranks of red, black and sepia bindings of this series filling whole shelves.

The frontispiece illustration for “Maine in World War I” boasts an idealized American doughboy carrying a rifle and Old Glory – an image that parallels many shot during the Civil War. But almost all the other photographs in the book document real – as opposed to idealized – Mainers and war machines.

Chapter 1 of “Maine in World War I,” “Prelude to War,” shows photos of the British-Canadian recruiting tent in Monument Square in Portland; the interned German luxury liner SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, at Bar Harbor in 1914; and a graffitied rail car in Maine announcing, “Bangor to Texas” in 1915.

In Chapter 2, we see troops leaving for the European front as well as Peter Neptune, then governor of the Passamaquoddy Nation, meeting with a recruiter. His son, Moses Neptune, a member of the 103rd Regiment, was among the two dozen members of his nation to serve in the trenches. Tragically, Moses was killed in the war.

The book continues with chapters on “Parades, Rallies and Civilian Support,” “War Industries” and “Over There.”

Chapter 5, “Coastal Defenses,” shows the big guns and forts, and even a survivor of the fishing schooner that sank off Cape Porpoise. Finally, the last chapter, “Peace and Remembrance,” depicts monuments to fallen Mainers. Whereas the images in the other chapters are simple and unembellished, this last chapter is the volume’s only romantic section, showing idealized, angelic statues.

I like books where even historians are surprised. I was taken by a portrait of Fireman 2nd Class, Arthur A. Carr of Westbrook, who served aboard the USS DeKalb. Earlier in the war, this ship had been the German raider, SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich, which, in 1915, sank the first American ship in the war, the Maine-built William P. Frye. I’d had no idea before studying the images in this book that the raider had been captured and repurposed by the Americans.

Taken together, “Maine in World War I” is surely one of the best “Images of America” books, with its wonderful photographs, first-rate documentation and rich personal touches.

And given Shettleworth’s hand in it, I’m not surprised. Few writer/historians in our region are more widely published or respected. Since the mid-1960s, he has played an outsized role in Maine, spreading knowledge of our shared cultural history. He is no stranger to the series, either: Shettleworth, journalist, author, former director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and current state historian, is now on his 10th title for the series.

I sat down with him to talk about “Images of America.”

Q: Earle, what do you think of the overall value of the series? I assume it’s positive because you keep coming back.

A: Arcadia Books and the history series serve a very important role in the documentary-photograph gathering process. Each book includes 100 images, many of which have never been published, and gets them out to the public.

Q: Some of the early titles focused on towns were put together by enthusiasts, and in several cases were badly captioned, misdated or misidentified. Recognizing that the books’ editing was in the hands of the author, not the publisher, I thought they made for dangerous historical guides.

A: Yes, they still rely on authors checking carefully, but there has been a substantive overall improvement both in the reproduction of photographs and the entire process. When I go to a bookstore that has an Arcadia display, inevitably there is at least one person taking the time to look at them, often engaged by the old photographs.

Q: Engaged in Maine or family history?

A: Both. And for me, to be part of that is a worthwhile role for a popular public historian. I would not do it unless I thought it had real value.

Q: Tell me about your co-author.

A: Good teamwork is everything. Jason C. Libby is a native Mainer, a member of the Maine Historic Preservation Council, a teacher and writer with an extensive knowledge of Maine, and has his own photographic collection.

Q: An excellent match. But why World War I and Maine besides the obvious centennial?

A: Last year, as state historian, I delivered a lecture on the entry of the United States and Maine into World War I in 1917. Building up to that, I had uncovered a large body of untapped pictorial material, including primary photographs of the home-front training camps and “over-there.” Indeed, before the war, Germany produced most visual postcards for America, and now came a flowering of local photo postcards.

Q: Your father (Earle G. Shettleworth Sr., 1899-1986, to whom the book is dedicated) served in World War I?

A: Just barely, and I did not know until going through his papers after he passed. I found he bought a Liberty Bond as a student at Deering High School. He volunteered in a shipyard and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. However, the war ended before he got to fly.

William David Barry is a local historian who has authored/co-authored seven books, including “Maine: The Wilder Side of New England” and “Deering: A Social and Architectural History.” He is currently writing a history of the Maine Historical Society. He lives in Portland with his wife, Debra, and their cat, Nadine.