Lincoln Legal Briefs

April - June 2000, Number 54

Why a Selective Book Edition?

The Lincoln Legal Papers was pleased to publish The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition in February of 2000. This revolutionary new form of electronic edition has set new standards for comprehensive documentary publications. Far removed from traditional microform editions, the Complete Documentary Edition includes over a dozen different indexes to the legal cases and documents that comprise the surviving record of Abraham Lincolnís quarter-century legal career. In addition to extensive indexing, the edition includes an expansive reference section.

With such a large collection of easily accessible documents and supporting reference materials now available, one might reasonably ask why the Lincoln Legal Papers should produce a selective book edition. It is an important question that merits a serious and straightforward answer.

Make no mistake, the Complete Documentary Edition is an impressive accomplishment made possible by the efforts of a talented group of people over fifteen years. There are, however, limitations inherent in a comprehensive edition, even one with detailed indexing and voluminous supporting material. At the center of the complete edition are electronic images of nineteenth-century documents, over 90 percent of which are handwritten, by a variety of authors. Furthermore, the reference materials are general to Lincolnís law practice as a whole rather than specific to particular cases. The principal functions that the editorial staff performed with the edition were organizational and extractive. Editors arranged the documents into cases within particular courts and extracted various pieces of information.

In contrast, the editors of a selective book edition perform distilling and additive functions. By carefully choosing the best documents and cases to illustrate a specific aspect of Lincolnís legal career, transcribing the handwritten documents into easily read typescript, and providing specific annotation, the editors of the Lincoln Legal Papers can make this aspect of Lincolnís life accessible to a different and broader audience, including students. Annotation can provide both an overview of all of the cases which a particular case represents as well as specific contextual information about that case.

A selective edition also affords editors the opportunity to devise innovative ways of presenting documents. The two Tours of the Circuit with Lincoln, which are a prominent feature of current plans for the selective edition, will provide readers with a daily account of Lincolnís activities as he traveled the Eighth Judicial Circuit for several months during the year. Integral to these extended essays will be representative and interesting documents that Lincoln wrote and filed in various courts across central Illinois. Readers will gain a new appreciation of the cadence of Lincolnís law practice from these unique presentations.

Finally, the selective editionís substantially lower cost will make it more affordable to those with only a casual or budding interest in Lincolnís legal career. In every way, we conceive of the selective edition as complementary to the Complete Documentary Edition. For many, it will provide an avenue into the more extensive riches of the comprehensive edition that would have remained closed without such enticement and guidance. While the edition recently published is a research tool that requires considerable effort on the part of a user, the selective edition is a research resource that suggests additional avenues of inquiry in the Complete Documentary Edition.

Progress on these important goals depends upon the continued financial support of our sponsoring organizations and on the support of individual friends of the Lincoln Legal Papers. We gratefully accept your tax-deductible donations to further our progress on this important second phase of the project.


Benner Accepts New Position

On July 1, Marty Benner, co-editor of The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, left The Lincoln Legal Papers staff to direct a new digitization project for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

In her capacity as editor and assistant director, Marty was a valued member of the staff and contributed greatly to our  progress and success. Several years ago, she saw the possibilities inherent in an electronic medium for the complete edition, and her foresight brought us to the release of the edition in a revolutionary electronic format. She shepherded the electronic edition through the long process of development, and both its form and quality owe much to her.

Marty directed not only the progress of the complete edition, but also served as the projectís assistant director for ten years. In that capacity, she managed personnel, grants, budgets, and the projectís computer system. She was also active in the Association for Documentary Editing and was the projectís representative in the Model Editions Partnership, which worked to establish guidelines for electronic editions. During her tenure with The Lincoln Legal Papers, she also found time to author several articles for scholarly publications and frequently presented public demonstrations that promoted the projectís efforts.

The staff at The Lincoln Legal Papers wishes her well in her new endeavors.


The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln:
Complete Documentary Edition

is now available to patrons of the Illinois State Historical Library.
Those who are interested in using the edition
can visit the reading room of the library located in the Old State Capitol
in Springfield.


Editorial and Advisory Board News

As The Lincoln Legal Papers moves into a new stage, we express our gratitude to outgoing members of our editorial and advisory boards and welcome incoming members. Our editorial staff appreciates the contributions both boards make to our steady progress and recognize their service as essential to our continued success.

Robert Johannsen, emeritus professor of history at the University of Illinois, has resigned from the editorial board. Professor Johannsen recently retired from the university, where he was the J. G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including his acclaimed biography Stephen A. Douglas and Lincoln, the South, and Slavery: The Political Dimension. Demonstrating his commitment to the project, he remains an active member of the advisory board

Paul Simon, former U. S. Senator from Illinois, has resigned from the advisory board. He has been a long-time Lincoln enthusiast and a great supporter of The Lincoln Legal Papers. He has served as a member of the advisory board since 1987. His support of our efforts over the years has contributed greatly to the projectís national standing as a premier project in Lincoln studies.

Paul H. Bergeron, professor of history at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Editor and Director of The Papers of Andrew Johnson since 1987, has agreed to serve on the editorial board. He is currently finishing the sixteenth volume of The Papers of Andrew Johnson, his ninth as editor. Bergeron, who received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, is the author of several books about James K. Polk and Tennessee history, including The Presidency of James K. Polk and, most recently, Tennesseans and Their History.

Christopher Waldrep, a professor of history at Eastern Illinois University (EIU), has agreed to serve on the advisory board. Professor Waldrep received his Ph.D. in history from the Ohio State University and has been a member of the History Department at EIU since 1990. He is the author of two books, including Roots of Disorder: Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-1880, and over twenty articles.


Staff News

On March 22, Assistant Editor Dennis E. Suttles presented a demonstration of the Complete Documentary Edition at the Illinois State Capitol during Preservation Day 2000 activities sponsored by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. He demonstrated the use of the edition through a series of queries regarding Abraham Lincoln's association with the Pike County bar.

Assistant Director John Lupton attended the American Association of History and Computing Conference, April 13-15, in Waco, Texas, where he participated in a roundtable discussion on Lincoln scholarship and the use of computers. He also spoke to the Lincoln Land Community College Elderhostel on May 24 about Lincoln's legal career.

Graduate Assistant Tracy Berner completed the coursework required for the M.A. at the University of Illinois at Springfield in May and ended her two-year tenure with the project. Tracy, who is writing her masterís thesis this summer, was one of the primary authors of the biographical essays published in the complete edition.

In June, Consulting Editor Cullom Davis received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Knox College in recognition of his contributions to the study of Lincoln and to The Lincoln Legal Papers.


Project Funding & Support

Last month, the staff was pleased to learn that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission awarded a grant of $86,649 to the project for the next fiscal year. The Illinois General Assembly also renewed their strong support of the project by providing $225,000. Continued federal and state funding are essential to the projectís success and financial stability, and the staff is grateful for these continuing commitments.

The project also acknowledges with deep appreciation the generosity of the following contributors:

Herman Belz
Garry D. Greenberg
Lincoln Land Community College Elderhostel
John Lupton
Readerís Digest in honor of Lawrence Elliott


The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln:
Complete Documentary Edition

The landmark publication that fills the last large gap in documenting the life of Abraham Lincoln, his quarter-century career as a general practice attorney in Illinois, is now available from the University of Illinois Press for $2,000. The enhanced facsimile edition combines digitized documentary images with a custom-designed interface, a comprehensive index, and an array of reference and background sections. To order the edition call the University of Illinois Press at 800-545-4703.

Click here to learn more about the edition.

© Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois