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HOME 'The Poet and the Poem' Tweed In New York King Cotton Vs. the Boll Weevil The 'Parallel Lives' of Lincoln and Whitman It's Known as a 'Fortress of Freedom' 'I Want to Be Alone' A Man with a Mission . . . In California
The 'Parallel Lives' of Lincoln and Whitman

Two larger-than-life figures in American history, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and Walt Whitman (1819-1892), were contemporaries who lived during one of the most tumultuous times in America: the Civil War. A new book by Daniel Mark Epstein, "Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington" (Random House), recounts the common experiences and beliefs shared by these two men who never met.

Nicholas H. Shepherd, photographer. [Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front], [1846 or 1847] Whitman and the butterfly from the 1889 edition of Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia, Ferguson Bros. & Co., PS3201 1889, Rare Book Collection, Library of Congress)

Bernstein spoke about his book during a Library of Congress event on Sept. 30. He began by commenting that "most of my research was done right here at the Library. I couldn't have discovered so many remarkable connections between these two men if I hadn't had so much help here."

You can see and hear Bernstein's full discussion by visiting the CyberLC Web site of events, lectures, conferences and interviews held at the Library on an array of topics ranging from "Digital Knowledge Creation" to "Traditional Chinese Wisdom." CyberLC is only one of the interesting features in The Library Today, where you can access the monthly Calendar of Events at the Library, the Information Bulletin newsletter, news releases and current exhibitions

The Library's Web site is a great way to make your own discoveries about the parallel lives of Lincoln and Whitman. More than 20,000 documents are in the "Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress" presentation. "Mr. Lincoln's Virtual Library" offers a Webcast of a 1998 event at the Library in which the digitization of Lincoln materials was announced. A highlight is a performance by Lincoln impersonator Michael Krebs.

In "The Poet at Work," are four of the notebooks of Whitman that are housed at the Library. According to Alice Birney, a literary-manuscript specialist in the Manuscript Division, Thomas Harned donated to the Library a total of 40 original Walt Whitman notebooks. Other Whitman notebooks were given by others, and several Whitman notebooks are at Duke University, Yale University, New York Public Library and other public repositories, as well as some that are still in private hands. It is safe to estimate that Whitman created at least 100 notebooks of greatly varying sizes and descriptions. Some are basically commercial notebooks in which he wrote with any implement at hand (pencil stub, pen, crayon) and which he amended at will by cutting out and replacing pages and pasting in clippings, photographs or scraps of manuscripts. Others are homemade notebooks that he created by folding or cutting sheets of paper and fastening with a pin or ribbon. A few come down to us as loose sheets.

In these typical writer's notebooks, Whitman jotted down thoughts in prose and expressions in poetry. The earliest examples include journalistic entries with ideas for articles he might write. His first trial lines for what would soon become part of the 1855 edition of "Leaves of Grass" appear in an early notebook, which bears an internal date of 1847; it was his habit, however, to use these notebooks over a number of years, filling in blank pages at will, and the remarkable trial flights of verse for "Song of Myself" in it are likely to date closer to 1854.

 

A. Nicholas H. Shepherd, photographer. [Abraham Lincoln, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front], [1846 or 1847]. Prints and Photographs Division. The image is attributed to Nicholas H. Shepherd, based on the recollections of Gibson W. Harris, a law student in Lincoln's office from 1845 to 1847. (Gibson William Harris, "My Recollections of Abraham Lincoln," Women's Home Companion (November 1903), 9-11.) Robert Lincoln, son of the president, thought the photo was made in either St. Louis or Washington during his father's term in Congress. It is among the earliest known portraits of President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln. The daguerreotypes were presented to the Library in 1937 by their granddaughter, Mrs. Charles Isham. The quarter-plate portrait of Lincoln was most likely taken shortly after the 37-year-old was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Reproduction information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-USZC4-2439 DLC (color film copy transparency post-1992), LC-USZ6-2095 DLC (b&w film copy neg. post-1992), LC-USZ6-299 DLC (b&w film copy neg. pre-1992, after 1959 cleaning and restoration?), LC-USZ62-12457 DLC (b&w film copy neg. pre-1992, after 1959 cleaning and restoration, copy of retouched print): Call No.: DAG no. 1224

B. Whitman and the butterfly from the 1889 edition of Leaves of Grass (Philadelphia, Ferguson Bros. & Co., PS3201 1889, Rare Book Collection, Library of Congress). Reproduction information: Contact: //www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-rarebook.html


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