Wednesday, June 17, 2009

1 President + 2 authors + 43 Americans = Great book

In 1998, I wrote my first review of a Lincoln book. It was of Harold Holzer’s The Lincoln Mailbag: America Writes to the President, 1861-1865.

When I received the assignment, I didn’t know Holzer from Adam. I didn’t have any idea he’d have more than 30 books under his belt within the next decade and be one of the most recognized names in Lincoln scholarship. If you would have told me then that seven years later I’d meet the man, and four years after that, I’d consider him a mentor and friend, I’d have answered, “Yeah-h-h-h, ri-i-i-i-ght!”

But, he has, I did and he is. It’s funny how this crazy thing called life plays out.

Today, I want to tell you about one of Holzer’s latest books. Not because he asked me to. (He did not.) Not because he answers my questions, no matter how ridiculous they may be. (He does.) Not because he’s the chair of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. (He is – and he’s one fine spokesperson.)

I want to tell you about In Lincoln’s Hand: His Original Manuscripts because it’s a really neat book. But Holzer didn’t produce this one alone. As he’s done occasionally in the past, the author joined forces with another Lincoln scribe, Joshua Wolf Shenk. If that name is familiar, it’s because Shenk “wrote the book” on Lincoln and depression. It’s titled Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Changed a President and Fueled His Greatness.

A winning combination
The duo combined images of documents in Lincoln’s own handwriting with photographs and supporting artwork, then topped the creation with commentary from 43 Americans. And, these weren’t just any Americans. They included in their ranks all living former Presidents, a past Supreme Court Justice, leading Lincoln scholars, actors who’ve portrayed Lincoln, famous politicians and writers, big name film makers and more.

This diverse group presents an unprecedented look at the Lincoln legacy through a multi-faceted wall of windows. The book is even more unique in that some of the panes have since shattered. We’ll never again have an opportunity to get a fresh perspective on Lincoln from three commentators who recently passed away – the patriarch of Lincoln scholars David Herbert Donald, the great American historian John Hope Franklin and legendary author John Updike.

In Lincoln’s Hand serves not only as a valuable resource for accessing many of Lincoln’s most famous words and seeing them in their original form, complete with the emancipator’s strikeouts and edits. It’s also a very attractive, easy-to-read volume which would make a cherished gift or a great conversation piece on a coffee table. It’s meant to be looked at – often – and read and discussed.

But wait, there’s more

In Lincoln’s Hand is an official publication of the Library of Congress Bicentennial Exhibition, “With Malice Toward None.” Though the celebratory exhibit of original Lincoln documents is no longer on display at the Library of Congress, it’s hitting the road, stopping for a time in museum and libraries across the country. Check to learn the approximate dates the exhibit will be in a venue near you.

You can also learn more on the exhibit website.

© Copyright 2009 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Hi friend,
I'm a Brazilian Lincoln buff since I was a bay. I liked very much your blog. I learned a lot of new things here. Excuse me if my English is not very good but I'm constructing a blog about several things I like, including the life of Lincoln. The blog is in Portuguese and English.
Take a look at it, if you want, and tell me what did you think. Okay?
I'm following your blog.
From a Brazilian friend,

Lincoln Buff 2 said...


I have read but one page of your Abraham Lincoln blog - the page in which you tell the story of your childhood, your discovery of Lincoln and your trip to Springfield. I am deeply moved.

As for your English, please do not apologize. At least you speak more than one language. I know no Portuguese, very little French, enough Latin to help me with vocabulary and about four words in Spanish. To survive a week in Guatemala when I visited my daughter I made sure I knew permisse, gracias, hola and the most important of all - banyo. I'm sure my spelling is terrible, but you get the picture. I so admire people from other countries who are bilingual or more from early childhood. We need that in the U.S.

Please stay in touch, and I promise, when I have a little more time I'll read more of your blog. And, maybe, just maybe, we can help you find that friend from Springfield. I'll bet he was as touched by your time as his guest as you were.

Your Lincoln friend,

Naim Peress said...

Since you are a Lincoln expert, I thought you should know about the auction in Dallas last Wednesday of handwritten notes of Lincoln's December 4, 1865 State of the Union address? If you could own one of his speeches, which would it be?

Naim Peress

Lincoln Buff 2 said...


There are two Lincoln speeches I'd like to own. The first is his farewell speech to Springfield. The version we hear today is the version he's believed to have written afterwards on the train. For a great account of this, read Douglas Wilson's book Lincoln's Sword.

This speech has always touched me deeply. Sense of place is important to me and you can feel how important it is to Lincoln as you read or hear this speech. It's very moving and passionate.
When the Springfield Lincoln presenter Fritz Klein delivers it, he uses so much emotion you feel as if you were there hearing Lincoln himself.

The other speech is his Discoveries and Inventions speech, which Lincoln first delivered in Bloomington. Though he thought little of it himself, it's become more powerful over time as it has provided a look back and a telescope looking forward. It also shows Lincoln's understanding of the power of the written word, which he used brilliantly throughout his life.

You can read more of my thoughts on these speeches in my interview with blogger Ed Newman for his blog, Ennyman's Territory at

Thanks for reading, Naim, and for your thought-provoking question.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ann,
I received an email from Dave Bakke of the State Journal Register, in Springfield, telling me that somebody sent him my blog address. He liked the story I wrote about my trip to Springfield and said he is going to publish it.
I must confess that this is a tremendous honor for a poor Brazilian teacher.
Now I want to know who is the somebody who sent him my address. Was that you? :)

Lincoln Buff 2 said...


Now what would make you think that? :-)

Your story is very moving. Who knows, maybe your friend from that Springfield trip 30 years ago may read it. Wouldn't it be neat if you could thank him? If anyone can make it happen, Dave Bakke can, thanks to another Lincoln blogger, Dave's colleague, Mike Kienzler

Just think how many people will now know your beautiful story? You deserve the honor.


Poiema said...

You are really stimulating my interest in Lincoln! Your passion is contagious.Thanks for the review.

Poiema said...

You are really stimulating my interest in Lincoln--your passion is contagious! Thanks for the great review.

Lincoln Buff 2 said...


Thanks for the kind words. Your enthusiasm is equally contagious. Thanks for following on twitter and reading the blog. It makes it all worthwhile to know I'm touching people and spreading the enthusiasm. That was my goal from the outset.

Have a great day.