The Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library

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).

This first release of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library encompasses documents from Lincoln’s early life through the end of his tenure in the Illinois House of Representatives (1824-1841). It is comprised of two parts: a digital edition and a digital archive. The digital edition includes over 300 documents that have received the full editorial treatment of oral proofreading, annotation, encoding, and fact-checking. Included are 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.

The digital archive includes approximately 5,000 documents deemed complementary, supplemental, or related to documents in the digital edition. Included are election returns, muster rolls, petitions, surveys, and routine legal documents on which Lincoln’s name or signature appears but which were not penned by him; the printed laws enacted during Lincoln’s time in the Illinois General Assembly (1834-1841); printed reports and resolutions coming out of the Illinois House; and manuscript versions of bills, resolutions, and reports coming out of the Illinois House not authored by Lincoln. Documents in the Digital Archive have been transcribed to allow for full text searching and have received some proofreading, annotation, and encoding. They have not been fact-checked or received a final review. Users should consult manuscript copies when they cite these documents.

Users can choose to search one or the other but the default search is for the total corpus.

Editorial Method

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln follows a policy of literal transcription with some silent standardization imposed upon line breaks and indentions. Legal headings, place- and 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. Cancelled text is described in a footnote. 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 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.