The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library is a beta version of the first digital product from the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing online all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime (1809-1865). The project has received generous support from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation, Iron Mountain, the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The primary scope of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln is all documents written by, written to, signed by, and addressed by Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime. The secondary scope is documents deemed complementary or supplemental to Abraham Lincoln’s life and public career.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln has arranged its documents in five chronological segments: (1) Legislative, encompassing Lincoln’s early life in Illinois to the end of his tenure in the Illinois House of Representatives (1819-March 1, 1841); (2) Congressional, from the end of Lincoln’s tenure in the Illinois House of Representatives to the end of his term in the U.S. House of Representatives (March 1, 1841-March 4, 1849); (3) Campaign, from the end of Lincoln’s tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives to his election as president (March 4, 1849-November 6, 1860); (4) Interregnum, from Lincoln’s election to his first inauguration (November 7, 1860-March 3, 1861); and Presidential, from Lincoln’s first inauguration to his death (March 4, 1861-April 15, 1865).

The staff further sub-divided each chronological segment into a digital edition and a digital archive (i.e., Legislative Digital Edition/Archive, Congressional Digital Edition/Archives):

Digital Edition: Digital edition documents are those identified by project staff as essential to Lincoln’s public and private life. Included are all letters to and from Lincoln in manuscript and printed formats; verbatim reports of Lincoln speeches and debates; and checks, surveys, election returns, petitions, legislative bills, reports, resolutions, and various legal documents written or signed by Lincoln. All documents in Roy P. Basler’s The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln will be included.

Digital Archive: Digital archive documents are those deemed complementary, supplemental, or related to digital edition documents. Included are election returns, muster rolls, petitions, surveys, legal documents, military commissions, summaries of speeches, legislative bills and acts, and other documents on which Lincoln’s name or signature appears but which were not penned by him. The editors determine on a case-by-case basis what new documents will be categorized as digital archive documents.

Editorial Method

Digital edition documents receive full editorial treatment of transcription, oral proofreading, single proofing, annotation, fact-checking, and sense reading, including hyperlinks and identifications of people, places, organizations, and events. Annotation of digital edition documents are first priority for the editors.

Digital archive documents will be transcribed in order to make them accessible to users (text searchable). Many of the digital archive documents in the Legislative and Congressional segments have received some proof-reading, annotation, and encoding, but no new encoding or annotation will be applied to digital archive documents in the foreseeable future. They will not be fact-checked or sense read. Users should consult manuscript copies when they cite these documents.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln follows a policy of literal transcription with some silent standardization imposed upon line breaks and indentions. Legal headings, datelines, salutations, closings, and signatures are regularized. Documents are transcribed in their entirety, including letterhead, postmarks, handwritten page numbers, outside addresses, docketing, endorsements, envelopes, and any foot or margin notes contemporary to the text. Stricken, italicized, or underlined text and superscripts are rendered literally. Spelling and capitalization are not corrected or modernized, and punctuation is inserted (with square brackets) only where necessary for clarity. Unclear or editorially supplied text is given in square brackets. Ellipses within square brackets denote unrecoverable text. Editorial expansions of abbreviations, where necessary, are rendered in italics within square brackets. Carets are used to denote insertions in the source text. Blanks filled in with handwritten text in an otherwise printed document are rendered with space around the handwritten text.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library: Current Progress

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library currently encompasses documents from the Legislative, Congressional, and Campaign segments. Included are biographies of people, places, organizations, and events associated with these documents.

The Legislative and Congressional segments, consisting of 9,027 documents, are complete. Work on the Campaign segment is ongoing.

Users can choose to search either the edition or the archive or both simultaneously but the default search is for the edition.