Title Reviewed:
A Catalog of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana in the Library of Congress
Howard H. Peckham


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 358-359

Article Type:
Book Review

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A Catalog of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana in the Library of Congress. (Washington: Library of Congress, 1960. Pp. xi, 498. Frontispiece, index. $15.00.)

Alfred Whital Stern, of Chicago, has given to the Library of Congress approximately seven thousand items relating to Abraham Lincoln and his times. This collection is the largest ever assembled by one person. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable when Mr. Stern confesses to have begun as late as 1923. When the Library of Congress began preparing this Catalog in 1958, the collection amounted to 5,200 items, which are faithfully listed and explained. Consequently the Catalog (also provided by Mr. Stern) is an important new tool in itself: a careful bibliography, an encouragement to other collectors, and an inducement to scholars to re-examine the Lincoln theme in the convenient body of literature Mr. Stem has brought together and made available.

Two Lincoln experts have assured this reviewer that a good, basic source collection on Abraham Lincoln would number less than fifty titles; that beyond this total one encounters later editions of the same titles, selections, translations, interpretations by others, endless repetitions, slight allusions, myths, etc., etc. Mr. Stern's collection of Lincolniana, obviously, is much more than a gathering of Lincoln's published writings. Indeed, that section of the Catalog, with all its variant editions, translations, selections, and facsimiled letters, numbers only 266 titles. The only significant lacuna is the "autobiographical" sketch that appeared in the Chester County Times (Chester, Pa.) of February 11, 1860. It should never be forgotten that these entries are the source materials on Lincoln; everything else is secondhand.

But the importance and attraction of Lincoln is the effect he had on the events of his time and the influence he has had on others since his death. These effects are the measure of the man's greatness, and this is the measure taken by Mr. Stern in his voluminous collection. The more than two hundred memorial sermons after the President's assassination, for instance, are one indication of the nation's sense of loss. "Works about Lincoln, the Civil War, Etc." include more than 4,400 titles. The quantity is not surprising when two such popular topics are combined. Then there are broadsides, sheet music, cartoons, half a dozen letters, stamps, coins, medals, sculpture, and various ephemera. Finally, there are the Volk bronze casts of Lincoln's head and hands.

Almost every entry contains an explanatory note of identification and provenance. The corresponding number in Jay Monaghan's monumental Lincoln Bibliography, 1839-1939, is cited. By the use of three sizes of type the entries are clear and easy to read. An informal photograph of Stern forms the frontispiece, undoubtedly over his protest, for he has been a most self-effacing collector and donor. The nation stands in his debt.

William L. Clements Library University of Michigan Howard H. Peckham

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.