When I saw Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in a theater near me, I was impressed with Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of our 16th president. I thought Lewis’s Lincoln had a realistic blend of humor and sadness, strength and weariness, homeliness and nobility. Obviously, no one alive today can say how accurate Lewis’ rendering is, but I have a feeling that it’s pretty accurate.
In fact, there were a few scenes that made me wonder if Day-Lewis had read Abe Lincoln’s Stories and Speeches while researching the role. This is a book that really broadened my own understanding of Lincoln—thanks to one of my favorite clients, George Griffiths.
It was 2007 when George presented me with a tattered hardcover copy, edited by J. B. McClure. George was a fan of Lincoln, as was I, and he wanted to clean up this old book and make the stories available again. The nice thing is, it’s perfectly legal to do so.
McClure’s collection was originally published in 1896, which means the copyright has expired, and the book has entered Public Domain. So I sent the book to Kirtas Technologies to be scanned and digitized. They returned the book to me, along with a Word document of both the text and all the images scanned at high resolution. From there, flowing the text into a new book layout was a fairly straightforward process.
But I wanted this version of that old book to be an improvement over the original. So I re-titled some of the stories and updated some of the language and grammar. Here’s an example of one of the stories that appears in the section about Abe Lincoln’s professional life:
A Famous Story.
It is said that Mr. Lincoln was always ready to join m a laugh at the expense of his person, concerning which he was indifferent. Many of his friends will recognize the following story—the incident actually occurred— which he always told with great glee: “In the days when I used to be ‘on the circuit,’ ” said Lincoln, “I was accosted in the cars by a stranger, who said: “Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.” “How is that.” I asked, considerably astonished. The stranger took a jack-knife from his pocket. “This knife,” said he, “was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.”
A Sharp Retort
It is said that Mr. Lincoln was always ready to join in a laugh at his own expense. Many of his friends will recognize the following story—the incident actually occurred— which he always told with great glee:
“In the days when I used to be ‘on the circuit,'” said Lincoln, “I was accosted in the cars by a stranger, who said: ‘Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.’
“How is that?” I asked, considerably astonished.
The stranger took a jack-knife from his pocket. “This knife,” said he, “was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.”
My goal was to make the stories accessible to today’s readers while preserving their historical accuracy. Plus, the changes were enough to give this version of these stories a new copyright.
The result was Glimpses of Lincoln: Stories Relayed by Himself and Others. We first published it as a pocket-sized paperback, and George ordered 10 or 20 copies at a time for kids in his family he thought should be more familiar with Lincoln. Later, as ebooks became more popular and I became more familiar with epublishing, I transformed Glimpses of Lincoln into a Kindle ebook. The paperback, ebook, and a PDF version, are now available from the LifeLines Shop.
I wrote in the re-published book, “…the wealth of stories collected by McClure gives depth and dimension to the legend.” That’s how I felt, reading a book that had been published less than 40 years after Lincoln’s death. Too often, history puts a gloss on events and people, and we end up remembering them as more glorious or beautiful than they were. (This happens a lot with Bible movies; I have yet to see a movie Jesus who looks or sounds like a 30-year-old Jew. But that’s another post.)
Re-publishing Glimpses of Lincoln gave me a chance to read stories written by people who actually knew the man. The fact is, he was not Henry-Fonda handsome or Gregory-Peck resonant, and that’s ok. For all his ugliness and occasional crassness, Abraham Lincoln still “led our nation through its darkest season with humility, humor, and strength of character.”
7 thoughts on “Abraham Lincoln, re-published”
Loved the movie, loved your post, and looking forward to reading the book! Just ordered it!
Thank you, Ann, for your kind comments and your order! I hope the purchasing process went smoothly for you, as I’ve recently made some changes to the store. (My goal was to make it more efficient—I hope I didn’t make it worse!)
It was super simple–just clicked on your link, clicked add to cart, filled in my info, and received a confirmation on my email immediately after purchase. Couldn’t be easier!
Thanks for your post Melanie! I can appreciate anyone who is not afraid of a joke at his own expense. Your enlightening post was an invitation to find out more about Lincoln.
I just read a little blurb in Reader’s Digest about the letter Lincoln received, asking him to grow a beard. But, of course, I already knew that story, because I read it in Glimpses of Lincoln! There are a lot of funny stories in the book, like the example above, but also a lot of stories that illustrate Lincoln’s integrity, his questions about God, his work ethic, and his compassion.
I too have this book with a facsimile signed signature do you know about the value please help my number is ### ### ####.
Sorry, Eric, I don’t know anything about the value of your signed book. Maybe you need to bring it to the Antiques Roadshow! When you get on the air, let me know.
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