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The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
03-15-2013, 10:38 AM (This post was last modified: 03-15-2013 10:39 AM by Tom Emery.)
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RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
I'm not sure if I can top that photo from Roger -- that's a hard one to follow -- but here goes.

In a previous research project, I extensively studied the history of the Illinois State Library in Springfield (not to be confused with the Illinois State Historical Library, now the Lincoln Presidential Library). There's a Lincoln connection to the Illinois State Library, but it's not what you might expect, and, I think, shows some interesting insights into Lincoln.

Lincoln was actually the first person to check a book out of the State Library, on Dec. 16, 1842. Since library usage was restricted only to state officials and legislators, Lincoln actually signed the book out in his law partner's name, S.T. Logan.

But that was one of only two books Lincoln borrowed from the State Library. The other did not come until 1860, when he borrowed Edwin Williams' Statesman's Manual a week after his election, likely to research his First Inaugural.

To be sure, Lincoln spent plenty of time in the State Library, reading newspapers and enjoying his political connections and friends. But I find it interesting that he only borrowed two books, particulary with the perception of Lincoln's love of reading.

It is also worthy of note that, when the State Library was established by the legislature in 1839, Lincoln did not vote on the act.

I don't think there is any question that Lincoln was an avid reader. However, my research indicates that people of the time had more affinity for books that may be perceived. There is little doubt that literacy rates were low, and books were expensive. Still, there was a clear demand, and books were well sought-after by many of the era.

Books were sold in general stores, by catalogs, etc., and even though tax-supported public libraries were not established in Illinois until 1872 (Gov. John M. Palmer, who I described in another thread, signed that act), there were subscription libraries, private libraries, etc. in increasing numbers. There is ample reason to believe that reading was in demand in the frontier of the mid-1800s.

I simply find it interesting that Lincoln borrowed only two books from the library, when he had ample opporunity to do so, and had plenty of political connections. He certainly could -- and did -- read books at the library, but I didn't find a lot of evidence that he did this to a great extent.

On another note, Lincoln met John Nicolay, then a clerk for Illinois Secretary of State Ozias Hatch, in the Illinois State Library. In a 1917 letter, Robert Todd Lincoln (who borrowed 27 books from the library, usually signed out in someone else's name) remembered his father's time in the library, which was a center for political gossip and bonding as much as a reading sancturary (and Lincoln certainly loved any talk of politics).
Lincoln also researched the Cooper Union speech in the library.

The Illinois State Library was in the Old State Capitol in Springfield and has been reconstructed to appear as it did in that era, although there are some structural differences.

I think I may have double-hit the italics key, which caused part of this to be italicized. Sorry about that one.
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RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln! - Tom Emery - 03-15-2013 10:38 AM

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