STERN COLLECTION DIGITIZED AT LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Unlike most of the Lincoln documents at the Library of
Congress, which are housed in the Manuscripts Division,
the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana is under
the stewardship of the Rare Books and Special Collections
Division. This collection, which contains an extensive array
of rare books related to Abraham Lincoln, also includes 240
manuscripts. Most of the manuscripts are legal documents
from Lincoln’s legal career, but there are also nineteen
documents that will be a part of Series II and III.
Among the highlights of the collection is Lincoln’s
famous January 1863 letter to General Joseph Hooker.
Hooker had suggested that the country needed a dictator,
and, as he placed him in command of the Army of the
Potomac, Lincoln exhorted Hooker, “Only those generals
who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of
you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.”
Another treasure from the collection is the scrapbook of the
Lincoln-Douglas Debates assembled by Lincoln from
newspaper clippings and annotated by him for publication.
As part of a broader digitization initiative, the Rare
Books and Special Collections Division digitized the Stern
Collection and agreed to scan documents to the technical
specifications of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. The
digitization was completed late in the spring, and the project
received the images this summer. We especially wish to thank
Elizabeth Gettins of the Rare Books and Special Collections
Division for her assistance in this project.
The legal documents from the Stern Collection were
reunited with the other documents from specific cases in The
Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete
Documentary Edition (2000). Images of those documents
were prepared from copies made from microfilm. The new
color images are dramatically superior, as the illustrations
below demonstrate. The image on the left is from The Law
Practice of Abraham Lincoln, and the image on the right is
from the recent digitization effort at the Library of Congress.
The images are the first page of an order written by Abraham
Lincoln in November 1855 for the case of Harrison v. Law
& Stallings. Lincoln represented Law & Stallings in the
Sangamon County Circuit Court on a change of venue from
neighboring Macon County.
The contrast between the two images below illustrates
some of the challenges of capturing images from microfilm.
Some of the dots at the top of the page in the image on the
left are there on the original document, but many are
imperfections from the microfilm. The ends of the lines of
text on the lower half of the page and virtually the entire last
three lines are illegible in the image on the left but are clearly
legible in the image on the right. Although the contrast between
the two images in this example are not typical, it does
demonstrate the importance of capturing the best possible
image of each document for transcription purposes.
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