Abraham Lincoln’s papers from his time as a lawyer, congressman and the 16th president are now online in full color in a new presentation after a multi-year digitization effort at the Library of Congress.
The Library holds a collection of more than 40,000 Lincoln documents dating from 1774 through Lincoln’s presidency and beyond, including materials from his campaigns, Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses and the earliest known copies of the Gettysburg Address. The more than 20,000 original documents in the collection have been digitized as high-resolution images through a collaboration with agencies in Illinois.
“The thousands of manuscripts, documents and images that tell the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life are an invaluable resource, and more people than ever can study these primary sources from the Library of Congress,” said Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. “More than 150 years after Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, his model of leadership and public service continues to inspire us as a nation.”
The collection is online at loc.gov/collections/abraham-lincoln-papers/about-this-collection/.
Researchers, students and scholars around the world can get a realistic view, zoom in and read documents written by Lincoln and his correspondents. The collection includes original documents as well as transcripts of many of the historic papers. Full-color images of Lincoln’s papers were created using the highest resolution for digitized documents available at the Library.
Treasures from the collection include:
- Lincoln’s printed copy of his second inaugural address. Historians believe he read from this copy to deliver his inauguration speech on March 4, 1865. For the first time, this document is included with the collection online;
- Lincoln’s July 1862 preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation;
- A memorandum expressing Lincoln’s expectation of being defeated for re-election in 1864;
- A condolence letter by Queen Victoria to Mary Todd Lincoln after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
The papers include Lincoln’s correspondence with his wife, members of his cabinet, military generals and other key figures.
Lincoln materials have long been some of the most frequently used resources in the Library’s collection by researchers and the public. “Civil War” and “Abraham Lincoln” have been among the top search terms on the Library’s website for more than 10 years.
The Lincoln Papers came to the Library in 1919 from Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, who inherited the papers after his father was assassinated in 1865. The collection was first opened to the public in 1947 at the end of a moratorium period mandated by Robert Lincoln.
Digital images of the Lincoln Papers were first made available online in 2001 based on scans from microfilm. The refreshed digital collection now has been updated with additional features, full-color images and materials not included in the previous online presentation. The Library holds the papers of 23 presidents.
The Lincoln Papers are among several collections made available online during the past year. Other newly digitized collections include the papers of U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk; the papers of Alexander Hamilton, Sigmund Freud and Margaret Bayard Smith; more than 4,600 newspapers from Japanese-American internment camps; a collection of web-based comic books; and 25,000 fire insurance maps from communities across America, the first of 500,000 that will be accessible online.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.