The project began when editor/author Ross E. Heller first read Ida M. Tarbell’s In the Footsteps of the Lincolns (1924). Of particular note was a Tarbell line which mentioned Lincoln’s campaign notebook featuring handwritten notes and newspaper clippings from his debates against Stephen Douglas when the pair ran for U.S. Senator in 1858. Tarbell said a Facsimile had been published in 1901, but was already rare. This so intrigued Heller he searched online for a first edition and, after discovering its copyright had expired, decided to republish it.
Lincoln had originally compiled the 6 in. by 3 in. notebook for his own needs, but gave it to a long-time friend, James N. Brown, who was running for state office on the same ticket that year. Brown told Lincoln the public utterly misunderstood Lincoln’s stance on “Negro Equality” so Lincoln added an eight-page letter to the campaign notebook. (Prior to the twentieth century, the legislature elected senators and Lincoln needed Brown’s vote to become senator.)
For his book, Heller was able to source scans of Lincoln’s pages from the original notebook now housed at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, plus documents not included in the 1901 Facsimile, such as news clippings and notes added by Brown. Heller’s book also features an introductory essay by Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer and art by contemporary Lincoln portraitist Wendy Allen.