August 2014 | Nate Pedersen

Library Book with Lincoln Inscription Circulates for Decades

lincoln inscription in race book.jpg

The Vespasian Warner Public Library in Clinton, Illinois confirmed last week what its librarians had long suspected: one of the books in its circulating collection bore an inscription from President Lincoln. What's more, the controversial book - "Types of Mankind" published in 1854 - provides a pseudo-scientific justification for racism.

Joan Rhodes, director of Vespasian Warner, brought the 700 page book to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, where state historians confirmed that Lincoln's handwriting did indeed grace the inside of the book. The curators were quick to stress, however, that Lincoln did not subscribe to the racial theories presented in the book, but instead likely read the book to better familiarize himself with his opponents' arguments.

While the inscription doesn't bear Lincoln's signature, it notes that the copy belonged to Clifton Moore, a colleague of Lincoln's and a local attorney. Below the inscription is a note from another attorney stating that Lincoln wrote the inscription in 1861 shortly before he left for Washington to assume the presidency. Clifton Moore donated the book - along with thousands of others - to the Vespasian Warner Public Library when it opened in the early 1900s.

The book circulated for decades before finally being withdrawn, its binding worn from years of borrowing. (If it passed through the hands of any Lincolniana collectors, they certainly passed the test of temptation).

Now the book is resting in a safety deposit box where it awaits eventual restoration and display.