New Online: Abraham Lincoln Papers

This is a guest post by Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Manuscript Division.

Regular visitors to the Library of Congress website may be scratching their heads right now, thinking, “Aren’t the Abraham Lincoln Papers already online?” It is true that the bulk of the Abraham Lincoln Papers have long been available through the Library’s American Memory portal. But to paraphrase an Oldsmobile advertisement from the 1980s, “This is not your father’s Abraham Lincoln Papers.”

The new portal to the Abraham Lincoln Papers has an updated look and offers new and enhanced features.

The Abraham Lincoln Papers first became available online in 2001. The images in that initial American Memory presentation were scanned from the microfilm edition of the Abraham Lincoln Papers. They included only materials from series 1–3 of the Lincoln Papers, and the site did not provide distinct URL addresses that retained the connection of the individual image to the rest of the document or to its bibliographic information. For those interested in Abraham Lincoln, however, the American Memory images and over 10,000 transcriptions provided by the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., opened up a whole new world of Lincoln-related documents previously available only to those with access to the microfilm edition.

Gold medal presented to Mary Lincoln by the people of France in 1866, commemorating the life of her late husband.




In connection with the 2009 bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the 2011 start of the Civil War sesquicentennial, the Library of Congress, as part of a cooperative project, began scanning in high-resolution color the more than 20,000 original documents in the Library’s Abraham Lincoln Papers, including documents not previously captured on microfilm.

Now available for the first time on the updated Abraham Lincoln Papers site are the reading copy of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address; the autobiographical statement Lincoln provided to Jesse Fell in 1859, now reunited with its cover letter; the gold medal (with its purple presentation box) presented to Mary Lincoln on behalf of the people of France in 1866 to commemorate her husband’s life, along with the letter written to Mrs. Lincoln by the medal committee; and a cigar box label from the 1860 presidential campaign advertising Abraham Lincoln with his “Honest Old Abe” nickname rendered in phonetic Spanish.

Cigar box label featuring Abraham Lincoln, 1860.

The color images on the updated Lincoln website represent the highest-resolution scans available at the Library of Congress for manuscript material and can be downloaded in several different file formats (gif, jpeg, tiff). Each item (or grouping of items) is associated with a unique digital ID. Each individual image now offers a specific URL that not only features that image, but also retains the bibliographic information about the item and allows the user to explore other pages of the item. Images now can be rotated online for easier viewing of text written in multiple directions. The transcriptions prepared by the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College for the American Memory presentation can be viewed as a complementary text box, or opened as a downloadable PDF file suitable for printing.

Lincoln’s attempt to record the farewell remarks he had just given in his hometown of Springfield, Ill., show the effects of trying to write on a moving train.


The new Abraham Lincoln Papers site contains an expanded essay on “Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation” and a complementary timeline of emancipation, both of which feature hyperlinks to relevant online material. A new timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s life also offers similar hyperlinks to associated documents and images. The related resources section has been expanded to include more recent scholarship on Abraham Lincoln and online sources not available when the American Memory site was created.

New to the updated Abraham Lincoln Papers site is a page listing frequently requested documents that provides quick links to many of the most-requested documents in the collection, including both the Nicolay and Hay copies of the Gettysburg Address, the final versions of Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses, his 1861 farewell remarks to Springfield, Ill., the preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln read to his cabinet on July 22, 1862, the July 14, 1863, letter Lincoln did not send to General George G. Meade, the “blind memorandum” of August 23, 1864, and Queen Victoria’s 1865 condolence letter to Mary Lincoln.

Another change to the updated Abraham Lincoln Papers site is the new thumbnail image that serves as the icon for the collection.

Look for the Abraham Lincoln image above to identify quickly the updated and expanded online Abraham Lincoln Papers among the digital collections available on the Library of Congress website!

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