Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Forthcoming---How Lincoln Edited His Own Writings

In Lincoln's Hand: His Original Manuscripts with Commentary by Distinguished Americans, Harold Holzer and Joshua Wolf Shenk, Bantam Publishing, 208 pp., $35.00.

From his iconic Gettysburg Address to his eloquent Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln’s speeches are firmly etched in our national consciousness, so much so that it’s as if they sprang forth fully formed and polished. They didn’t. Lincoln was a meticulous writer, and In Lincoln’s Hand, you’ll see his letters and speeches as he wrote them, with all their cross-outs, misspellings and rewrites. The result is illuminating. Faithfully reproducing his actual, handwritten documents, it’s a rare look into Lincoln’s mind, allowing you to see where he paused to dip his pen in the ink or capture an idea, where he crossed out errant phrases and how he reworked his thoughts in search of greater precision and clarity.

These 40-some reproductions span the full range of Lincoln’s writings—from whimsical doggerel to private letters to the rhetorical masterpieces that inspired the nation. Also featuring commentary from the likes of John Updike and Sandra Day O’Connor (Bill Clinton, for instance, dissects Lincoln’s brilliant defense of the Emancipation Proclamation), if offers a fascinating new perspective of one of our greatest presidents

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and in conjunction with the Library of Congress 2009 Bicentennial Exhibition, In Lincoln’s Hand offers an unprecedented look at perhaps our greatest president through vivid images of his handwritten letters, speeches, and even childhood notebooks—many never before made available to the public.

Edited by leading Lincoln scholars Joshua Wolf Shenk and Harold Holzer, this companion volume to the Library of Congress exhibition offers a fresh and intimate perspective on a man whose thoughts and words continue to affect history. To underscore the resonance of Lincoln’s writings on contemporary culture, each manuscript is accompanied by a reflection on Lincoln by a prominent American from the arts, politics, literature, or entertainment, including Toni Morrison, Sam Waterston, Robert Pinsky, Gore Vidal, and presidents Carter, George H.W., and George W. Bush.

While Lincoln’s words are quite well known, the original manuscripts boast a unique power and beauty and provide rare insight into the creative process. In this collection we can see the ebb and flow of Lincoln’s thoughts, emotions, hopes, and doubts. We can see where he paused to dip his pen in the ink or to capture an idea. We can see where he added a word or phrase, and where he crossed out others, searching for the most precise, and concise, expression. In these marks on the page, Lincoln’s character is available to us with a profound immediacy. From such icons as the Gettysburg Address and the inaugural speeches to seldom-seen but superb rarities, here is the world as Lincoln saw and shaped it in words and images that resound to this very day.

About the Authors
Harold Holzer is cochairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and author, coauthor, or editor of thirty-one books on Lincoln and the Civil War era, including the award-winning Lincoln at Cooper Union and most recently, Lincoln: President-Elect. His web site is www.haroldholzer.com.

Joshua Wolf Shenk is the author of Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness and the director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College. His work has been published in Harper’s Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, the Economist, and other publications, and in the national bestseller Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression. His website is www.shenk.net

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