In a 1983 poll rating the performance of U.S. presidents, American historians voted Abraham Lincoln the "greatest" of the chief executives. Moreover, in all five presidential surveys conducted among scholars, Lincoln consistently headed the list. [1] His popularity has not been confined to academic circles, however, for the general public seems to have an insatiable appetite for Lincolniana. Publishers continue to issue new works about the Great Emancipator, reinforcing the myth that any book concerning Lincoln, health, or pets will find its way into print. Indeed, so much ink has been spilt concerning the Illinois lawyer that the Library of Congress has a special call number designation for its Lincoln items; this distinction is shared by only two other individuals — Napoleon and Shakespeare.

The voluminous output of Lincoln studies is now estimated at seven thousand titles. [2] Depending on one's definition of what constitutes Lincolniana, that number may be either doubled or halved. In fact, the quest for an adequate Lincoln bibliography has troubled both collectors and scholars for more than a hundred years. Five major bibliographies have appeared in print since 1865; four by collectors and the fifth, a two-volume work by the Illinois State Historical Library, is titled Lincoln Bibliography, 1839–1939. This work is commonly spoken of as the "Monaghan bibliography" or "Monaghan," a reference to its editor James Jay Monaghan. It has been — and continues to be — one of the most widely consulted reference works on Lincoln. But this distinction is achieved not by any claim to scholarly thoroughness or complete bibliographical accuracy. It is Page  [End Page 55] owed to the fact that its publication stifled other Lincoln bibliographic efforts at the time, and subsequent attempts to update or replace Monaghan are wanting.

Jay Monaghan
James Jay Monaghan

Whatever flaws and organizational problems exist in Monaghan can be traced largely to the famous collectors-bibliographers Daniel Fish and Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf as well as the editorial policies of the Illinois State Historical Library [ISHL]. While dissenting voices, such as bookdealer-bibliographer Ernest Wessen, questioned the policies of the ISHL, these cautionary remarks went unheeded.

The interest in collecting Lincolniana followed immediately after the Emancipator's assassination. Hundreds of funeral sermons were published and eagerly sought by a bereaved American public. Funeral displays honoring the martyred president were picked apart, piece by piece, as souvenir hunters tried to obtain a small remembrance of the occasion. Splinters of wood from rails touched by the axe of Old Abe became more valuable — and more numerous — than those of the true cross. By the turn of the century, Lincoln collecting and collectors flourished. It is not surprising that disagreements arose Page  [End Page 56] among collectors regarding the legitimacy of Lincolniana items. Perhaps it was fitting that a Minnesota judge and Lincoln collector, Daniel Fish, provided some order to the confused state of affairs.

In 1900, Fish published Lincoln Literature: A Bibliographical Account of Books and Pamphlets Relating to Abraham Lincoln. The work is less of a bibliography than a checklist of items from Fish's own collection. The word Bibliographical was added to the title — by Fish's own admission — at the insistence of his publisher. [3] Its importance, however, was in the fairly rapid acceptance of the author's definition of Lincolniana. Fish eliminated the grisly relics and curous memorabilia from his definition, stating: "This list, then, deals exclusively with books and pamphlets, including in the latter class everything that approaches the dignity of the brochure. And it embraces only such of these as pertain wholly or chiefly to the man, his acts and utterances, his character and services, his life and death. Nothing has been inserted without a reason for thus classifying it, nothing intentionally omitted within the limits prescribed." [4] The number of printed works listed in Fish were eight hundred, but a burgeoning market for Lincoln materials soon dated his effort.

In 1903, the Library of Congress published A List of Lincolniana in the Library of Congress. Edited by George Thomas Ritchie, the work contained many entries not found in Fish. Moreover, fellow collectors William Lambert and Judd Stewart supplied Fish with additional titles from their own collections. By 1906 Fish had added three hundred titles to his list, publishing an updated version of his earlier Lincoln bibliography. [5]

This new listing adhered to the same definition of Lincolniana. Thus broadsides, political pamphlets, and newspaper and magazine articles were eliminated from consideration. Published diaries of Lincoln's associates Gideon Welles and Orville Hickman Browning also fell by the wayside. Fish had brought order to a chaotic field of collecting but in doing so established himself as the sole judge for approving an item as Lincolniana. His influence in the field was so great that he could boast that "Whenever there is a puzzling Page  [End Page 57] question of Lincoln Bibliography to settle, I am the 'George' who is permitted to 'do it.'" [6] Fish's aura of infallibility had unfortunate consequences, for few collectors or bibliographers were willing to question his guidelines.

Daniel Fish
Judge Daniel Fish

The centennial anniversary of Lincoln's birth was celebrated in 1909. Literally hundreds of publications were issued that year to extol the virtues of the sixteenth president. Booksellers, attempting to secure higher prices for their wares, advertised materials "not listed in Fish." Clearly, an update of the Fish bibliography was needed. And, in 1925, Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf provided one. Essentially, Oakleaf retained Fish's definition but added biographies of Stephen A. Douglas, "for no one can read the life of Abraham Lincoln understandingly without also reading the life of Douglas."[7] Although his efforts added 1,576 titles to Fish's list, Oakleaf's work, like his predecessor's, reflected little original bibliographic work. He Page  [End Page 58] did not venture beyond his own collection, nor did he track down first editions of titles.

While many of the largest Lincoln collections — those of Daniel Fish, Judd Steward, and Charles W. McLellan — found their way into public institutions and libraries, Oakleaf continued to build his private Lincoln collection. Together with William H. Lambert, Oakleaf, Fish, Steward, and McLellan he was among the leading collectors of Lincolniana. Appropriately, these men were given the moniker the "Big Five" by fellow collectors. When the Big Five passed from the scene, a new, larger, and more energetic group replaced them. This new generation of Lincolnphiles marked a renaissance in Lincoln collecting and scholarship. Indeed, from 1920 to 1950, some of the largest private collections were built by Lincoln buffs Oliver Barrett, Philip Sang, James W. Bollinger, and Henry Horner. Many of the other collectors — Ida Tarbell, William Barton, and Carl Sandburg — were also authors of best-selling Lincoln biographies.[8]

In spite of the renewed fervor in Lincoln scholarship and collecting, little progress was made on the bibliographic front. Such a state of affairs was ironic because the 1920s and 1930s were something approaching a golden age in bibliographic compilation in the United States and Great Britain. [9] In 1926, John W. Starr issued a listing of titles from his own collection that were not found in Fish or Oakleaf. Starr had tried to publish a Lincoln bibliography "eleven or twelve years" earlier. However, as he claimed, Daniel Newhall, a well-known bookdealer, "killed" the project. Perhaps Newhall's estimate of Starr's bibliographic ability was not far off the mark, because the published bibliography proved to be so idiosyncratic that other collectors, by and large, ignored it. In fact, Oakleaf was already in the process of updating his earlier work and resented Starr's intrusion upon his own efforts. [10]

We will never know what Oakleaf's revised Lincoln bibliography Page  [End Page 59] would have been like. His death in the summer of 1930 prevented the project from reaching fruition. The project was well known among collectors, and Bollinger and Henry Horner wrote to Paul Angle, executive secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association, to urge him to complete the Oakleaf project. Angle had distinguished himself as a Lincoln authority by exposing the Lincoln-Ann Rutledge love letter forgeries of Wilma Minor. None of the evidence suggests that Bollinger and Horner coordinated their efforts. Both seemed interested in the same goal, a revised Lincoln bibliography.

Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf
Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf

Bollinger was the first to approach Angle about continuing the project. Possessing an extensive collection of Lincolniana that rivaled Page  [End Page 60] those of the Big Five, Bollinger had no small stake in Angle's acceptance. It was clear from his letter that "In all Lincolndom the greatest crying need is a complete Bibliography. You have the time, you can do it. You could doubtless get the benefit of what Oakleaf has so far done, you are the one person I know of that can get a definitive production. I believe there is in the proposition the goal of something more substantial than glory and some one is going to jump at it before long that may not be worthy."[11] Angle was not interested in the proposition, however, which he termed "too mechanical." This only angered Bollinger, provoking him to send his suggestions to the president of the association, Logan Hay. [12]

But Bollinger was not content to leave the matter at that. In a series of letters that seemed akin to a lawyer pleading his case before the bar, Bollinger offered every argument that might convince Angle to change his mind. Invoking the honorable "purposes" of the association, Bollinger argued "every word of these seem to me to point directly towards the association fathering the new book."[13] When this tack failed, he played upon Angle's sense of guilt, accusing him of displaying a patronizing attitude toward collectors.

It is just a part of your attitude towards collecting which I think you hold too cheap. The pleasure of seeking and finding a new Lincoln letter on your part is identical with the collector's pleasure. The reward is the same and consists of the joy of small successes, and at the same time there is an apparent increase in the fund of information. So I do not see why you would not enjoy making a bibliography. If you undertook it, whether you wanted to or not, you would of necessity have at your fingers' ends the title pages of everything on the shelves. Then one step further brings you into the contents of each item. [14]
The strategy failed. The Abraham Lincoln Association did not approve of the suggestion. And Angle, assuring Bollinger that he did "not hold collectors and collecting in the slightest disrespect," argued that even he would concede "that certain types of historical work are likely to have greater appeal than others." [15] Page  [End Page 61]

Governor Henry Horner and his collection of printed
Governor Henry Horner and his collection of printed Lincolniana.

Fellow Lincoln collector and Chicago judge Henry Horner also tried to persuade Angle to complete the Oakleaf project. Before his death, J. B. Oakleaf was in active correspondence with Horner, exchanging information on new or unlisted titles. Upon Oakleaf's death, Horner took it upon himself to urge Angle to "get in touch with Mr. Oakleaf, the son, and ascertain how he feels" about completing the new Lincoln bibliography. Angle informed Horner that Page  [End Page 62] Bollinger had anticipated his suggestion, asserting that the decision on whether or not to proceed with the project would be made by the board of directors. He then added, "frankly the work is of a type which doesn't have a particularly strong appeal for me."[16]

For a brief time, Bollinger and Horner had reason to believe that Oakleaf's son, J. L. Oakleaf, would complete his father's work. In early July 1930, J. L. Oakleaf wrote Horner and Angle detailing his efforts to finish his father's project. Of greater interest to Oakleaf, however, were Horner's suggestions for disposing of his father's collection. Horner's response was cautiously worded. Obviously, he was glad to help in completing the bibliography and suggested that J. L. Oakleaf acquire the services of Paul Angle. The Chicago judge was less enthusiastic about Oakleaf's desire to sell his father's collection. After offering Oakleaf some general advice concerning auction houses and public institutions, Horner urged the son "to retain and continue the collection yourself."[17] Much to Horner's dismay, Oakleaf responded that he had not reached a definite decision to publish his father's manuscript. But Oakleaf thanked Horner for his kind offer of assistance.[18]

The question of a new Lincoln bibliography seemed to have died with Oakleaf in 1930. Louis A. Warren of the Lincoln Historical Research Foundation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had begun a listing of recent publications in Lincolniana in 1929. Yet this list gave only the barest of details about new titles and was less than a complete listing of Lincolniana in any given year. Surprisingly, the politics of the Great Depression helped to advance the compilation of a new Lincoln bibliography. In 1932, Henry Horner was elected governor of Illinois. That same year Paul Angle left his post as executive secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association and assumed the twin posts of librarian of the ISHL and secretary of the Illinois State Historical Society.

Horner now had the services of the ISHL at hand; perhaps they could be persuaded to accomplish his dream of a new Lincoln bibliography. In part, this desire probably stemmed from Horner's earlier involvement with Oakleaf. Too much of Horner's time and effort had been spent on the Oakleaf project simply to let it lie dormant. Page  [End Page 63] Of course, one must consider the natural instincts of the collector, which Bollinger described for Angle and which Horner possessed in abundance. Horner derived great satisfaction from understanding all aspects of the titles he possessed. He was constantly trying to fill the gaps in his collection. This required the existence of a complete inventory of all collectable items; in Horner's mind, a new and comprehensive Lincoln bibliography was needed. One has but to comprehend the extent of Horner's collection to appreciate his feelings: "His [Horner's] collection grew to occupy 225 feet of bookshelves and 130 pamphlet boxes. It consists of 1,996 books, 3,717 pamphlets, 185 programs of Lincoln meetings and dinners, 165 dealers' catalogues, and 410 miscellaneous items. Also included in his collection were 343 funeral addresses delivered after Lincoln's death. He owned biographies of the president written in 1860, Republican campaign manuals and song books of 1860 and 1864, and three original timetables of the Lincoln funeral train. To catalogue his collection, Horner organized a 13,000-card file of cross references." [19]

The governor's wish for a new Lincoln bibliography was known to the librarian of the ISHL. Paul Angle quickly learned the workings of state government, often using them to his own advantage. He dealt directly with a board of trustees appointed by the governor but, in fact, found himself guiding his budgets and special appropriations through both the House and Senate, only to await the final approval of the governor. Political trade-offs were often required if Angle were to obtain special favors. Although his department was theoretically nonpartisan, he was coerced into writing Horner's radio campaign advertisements in 1936.[20] The Lincoln bibliography should have required little arm-twisting on Horner's part. Angle knew of the governor's long interest in the project. And surely Angle could have obtained from the governor some future concessions for the library had he undertaken the project. But Angle had great visions for the ISHL. A bibliography would be a terrible drain on a limited staff and budget, depriving Angle of the necessary resources for other projects. Too, Angle retained his responsibility as editor of the Abraham Lincoln Association's Bulletin, a quarterly publication. The project, although important, probably would not have been Angle's Page  [End Page 64] main concern if the trustees of the Historical Library, acting upon the suggestion of the governor, had not decided to put him to work publishing the Lincoln bibliography as a title in the library's series, The Illinois Historical Collections.[21]

For the project, Angle recruited the assistance of Professor Theodore C. Pease of the Illinois Historical Survey [IHS] located at the University of Illinois. At that time, the Survey was the editorial office of the ISHL. Pease had known of Angle and recommended him for the position as executive secretary of the Lincoln Centennial Association (renamed the Abraham Lincoln Association in 1929). The professor's interest focused largely on the French and British records of Illinois during the pre-Revolutionary period. Under Angle's tenure at the ISHL, the focus increasingly centered upon Lincoln and the Civil War. This shift created some friction, as each man tried to influence the board of trustees to his own view.

In 1935, Pease assisted Angle in formulating a new definition of "Lincolniana," the one that served as the guideline for the ISHL Lincoln bibliography. The Pease-Angle definition drew heavily upon the Fish-Oakleaf standard. Only printed matter — books, pamphlets, and broadsides — dealing with Lincoln, his ancestry, and his family would be considered.[22] Douglas biographies were eliminated, as were general histories of the United States, the Civil War, and Illinois. The Welles and Browning diaries were excluded from consideration, as were books relating to the career of Robert Todd Lincoln. A grey area left to the discretion of the editors would be advertising bulletins, pamphlets and pictures, menus, programs of school exercises, and other miscellaneous materials. In short, the definition remained one based on the collector's point of view rather than a more catholic approach that would have met the needs of scholars as well.

Angle sent a memo to Horner on March 12, 1935, providing a draft of the proposed bibliography. "Apparently, the editorial work is going to devolve on me," Angle wrote. "Professor Pease and I have drafted a tentative plan for a bibliography, a copy of which I enclose. At your convenience, I would like very much to go over this with you, so that I may have the benefit of your own experience as a collector. As soon as we decide definitely upon materials to be included and other related matters, we can go ahead with the project." [23] It is clear that Angle desired Horner's approval before Page  [End Page 65] any further steps were taken. Once again, the collector's influence was to be reflected in the bibliography.

Pease was instructed to begin work on the Lincoln bibliography once the preliminaries had been agreed upon. But by the end of 1938 the disagreement between Pease and Angle concerning the priorities of research and the relationship between the Survey and the ISHL overshadowed any further work on the bibliography. Pease complained that "the Trustees had taken Angle into their confidence in discussing a change which enhanced his office and abolished mine, leaving me to know of it only as an accomplished decision."[24] By 1939 the search was underway to find a new editor for the bibliography. In June of that year, the appropriation for a historical researcher passed the Illinois Senate, and James Jay Monaghan was selected to complete the project Pease had begun.

Monaghan officially joined the ISHL in the fall of 1939. He had begun his career as an armchair historian and was later employed by the Works Progress Administration as a historical researcher. By all accounts, he was a competent scholar but, save for a course entitled "American Bibliography and Historiography" at the University of Chicago, lacked any bibliographic or library experience.[25]

If the neophyte historical research editor hoped for direction from the efforts of the Historical Survey, he was sorely disappointed. Apparently Pease's staff did little more than paste entries from Fish, Oakleaf, and Starr onto three-by-five cards. The other polestar available to Monaghan was the Pease-Angle definition of Lincolniana formulated in 1935. Although this definition did little more than slightly revise and extend standards previously employed by Fish, Oakleaf, and Starr, it had the attractive feature of offering manageable research perimeters. Time was a consideration of no small consequence. The project had already been in progress for four years, and other research endeavors were demanding the attention of the ISHL. Angle was under pressure by the trustees to complete the project by the end of 1940. He assured Lloyd Lewis, a trustee and Page  [End Page 66] Lincoln buff, that modification of the original plans "would expedite the publication," but even at that Angle would not guarantee publication by 1941. [26] It was not known if Monaghan had much to say about the direction of the project. Even if he had, the evidence suggests that he had little inclination to alter the Pease-Angle standard. Essentially, Monaghan intended on doing little more than updating the works of Fish, Oakleaf, and Starr.

Lincoln buffs elsewhere were actively building their own collections and developing different ideas on bibliographic compilation. The project at the ISHL was not widely known to outsiders, resulting in a number of individual efforts competing with the ISHL. Surprisingly, the other bibliographic projects were proposed or undertaken by professional bookdealers and scholars. Of greatest promise were the efforts of James G. Randall, Ralph Newman, and Ernest Wessen.

Ensconced inside the ivy-covered walls of Gregory Hall at the University of Illinois, James Garfield Randall was working on a bibliography of his own in 1929. Randall was recognized as one of the leading Lincoln scholars in the country. Among the assignments in his graduate seminar on Lincoln, Randall asked his students to seek out new Lincoln titles. These publications were not to be "minor or trivial," but of important research value to the scholar. Each title was annotated, citing appropriate passages from published reviews. Randall was compiling a selective bibliography directed toward the needs of scholars. [27]

At the depth of the depression, Ralph Newman opened a modest business known as the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop. What seemed to the casual observer as an esoteric venture doomed to failure actually proved to be a very lucrative business. Catering to Civil War aficionados, moderate-income Lincoln fans, and wealthy collectors of Lincolniana, Newman soon established himself as a recognized authority. In 1939, he began to voice a need for a "single Page  [End Page 67] authoritative source of Lincoln bibliographical information," one that "would combine all the best features of the older works, add all of the recent and newly discovered publications, and correct the errors in the older bibliographies." [28]

Newman's proposal had the attractive features of being simple to use, inexpensive, and easy to update. By printing bibliographic information on cards similar to those used in the Library of Congress, Newman attempted to interest a sufficient number of "Lincolnites" into subscribing for the service. This method of bibliography could constantly be updated without issuing an entirely new edition as would be necessary for a book format. The bibliography could be easily corrected while serving as a card catalogue for collectors' own libraries. Newman estimated the cost per card to run as high as 4.5 cents each or — if two hundred subscribers were enlisted — as low as one penny each. The distinctive feature of Newman's proposed bibliography in comparison to previous efforts was the broader audience sought and an emphasis away from merely providing a checklist of one's own bookshelves.[29] Newman aimed his bibliography toward serious scholars and large public libraries as well as devoted private Lincoln collectors. Whereas collectors were generally interested in obtaining all items in a defined area, bookdealers' interests covered all titles regardless of whether they comported to Fish's definition of Lincolniana. Differentiating first editions from later printings, identifying all editions of a work, and tracing a history of a book's publication were of great importance to Newman. The very things that interested dealers were, by and large, half-heartedly pursued by the collector-bibliographers.

Meanwhile, Ernest Wessen, a bookdealer and member of the Bibliographic Society of America, began formulating his own catalogue while recuperating from a broken arm in a Mansfield, Ohio, hospital. Wessen had a massive private library but considered himself more than a mere collector. Weeks of detective work would often be spent in tracking down the history of a single edition. Wessen was a meticulous bibliographer and a bit of a curmudgeon. He did not tolerate amateurs lightly, especially those who claimed expertise. A close examination of the Fish "bibliographies" — a word Wessen only grudgingly used in connection with Fish's work — convinced the Page  [End Page 68] Ohio bookdealer that Fish "was something of an old fraud." [30] Wessen uncovered many inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the Fish bibliography, the most glaring being his insensitivity in researching and recording variant editions. Displaying the sarcasm that marked most of his writing, the following excerpt from Wessen's article on Fish reflected his position:

Engaged in cataloging the books which he had chosen for inclusion in his work, Fish seems to have been possessed of a complete lack of interest in the text of many of these books. Unimpressed by the necessity of doing some research work in support of his attributions, he proved to be the world's worst guesser. On at least twelve occasions he was confronted with the necessity of choosing a first edition from among two or more variants. Eleven times, he chose the wrong book, and the accuracy of his twelfth guess — involving the priority of the earliest editions of the "Gettysburg Address" — remains in doubt. [31]
In a series of articles beginning in 1938 and in his own trade catalogue Midland Notes, Wessen began to argue for a new Lincoln bibliography based on a standard other than Fish.

The task Wessen attempted was awesome indeed. Fish was a deity among Lincoln collectors. Many Lincoln buffs were building their collections along the guidelines that Fish, Oakleaf, and Starr established. Wessen preached nothing short of heresy in the minds of some when he talked of replacing Fish with a new standard. And yet, Wessen's formula was probably to the advantage of most collectors for it argued for expanding Fish's definition of Lincolniana.

In 1940, Wessen was permitted to present his case before a joint meeting of the Bibliographical Society of America and the American Library Association. He began writing his paper "Lincoln Bibliography — Its Present Status and Needs," providing a detailed history of early bibliographic efforts in the Lincoln field, especially those of Daniel Fish's. Wessen carefully and cautiously pointed out the flaws Page  [End Page 69] in the accepted definition of Lincolniana as well as incorrect citations or spurious information in the early bibliographies. By a systematic examination of Fish, Wessen had provided a valuable service in exposing the shortcomings of bibliographic compilation in the Lincoln field. He went one step further, however, by suggesting new ways to undertake a Lincoln bibliography. Near the completion of his article, Wessen learned of the Monaghan project at the ISHL.[32] In fact, both Angle and Monaghan were invited to comment on Wessen's paper. The debate that followed most clearly defined their respective positions.[33]

"The scope of a bibliography," Wessen insisted, "must never be limited by the width of collectors' bookshelves.... The first essential of a Lincoln bibliography is that it list every known book, pamphlet, and broadside relating to Abraham Lincoln, his action as a private citizen, and a public servant."[34] This was the central argument advanced by the Ohio bookdealer. The great mass of Lincoln materials made it impossible for any one collector to acquire every item. If this was true, as Wessen argued, Lincoln collectors would become more specialized, focusing on one aspect of the sixteenth president. Unfortunately, a selective bibliography such as Fish's or Oakleaf's included only titles that conformed to their guidelines and were in their collections. Wessen's definition of Lincolniana would be broad, and the bibliographic process would be collaborative. He envisioned a nationwide inventory of every public and private collection as a prelude to the project. Only in this manner could the bibliographer be sure no stone went unturned.

The immediate drawback to Wessen's formula was that it conceivably would make a good deal of the Civil War literature items of Lincolniana. Several lifetimes of bibliographic compilation would be required to read through and sort out the massive amount of pamphlet, book, and broadside materials. Wessen was cognizant of this fact but insisted that quality and content should be the test for inclusion, not an arbitary standard of quantity or the name "Lincoln" in the title. According to this standard the diaries of Gideon Welles and Orville Hickman Browning become important for the light they shed on Lincoln. The group that would benefit by Wessen's formula was obviously academic. And this was no coincidence, for Wessen Page  [End Page 70] had long held that "it is not possible for writers to research sound conclusions unless they have exhausted all possible sources, and of this they may not be sure until the bibliographer has explored the field, and provided them with a catalog of those sources. Research will remain a hit-or-miss affair until a bibliography is available."[35]

Wessen's remaining remarks addressed issues largely of interest to bookdealers. He advanced a plan to provide a census of rare Lincolniana to be noted in the bibliographic entries. This would provide the location and number of extremely rare items. Title pages and brief critical notes would be supplied to readers, enabling them to judge an item's research potential. Finally, Wessen urged the listing of all first editions as well as "subsequent editions containing important textual changes." [36]

Monaghan's reply was defensive but respectful. "The first duty of a new compiler," he retorted, "would seem to be to remedy as far as possible the shortcomings in the field" [i.e., Fish, Oakleaf, and Starr]. Wessen's idea to broaden the definition of Lincolniana was "certainly valid," "but such bibliographies would not answer the need of the great mass of Lincoln collectors whose libraries are based on the Fish list and the supplements to it."[37] The thrust of Monaghan's comments indicated that the ISHL project would carry on the collector tradition.

Ironically, Governor Horner died in October 1940, shortly after the conference. In the philanthropic tradition common among assimilated Jews, he bequeathed his vast Lincoln library to the state. Monaghan traveled to other collections around the country but was neither systematic nor thorough in his investigations.[38] Wessen, disillusioned by the ISHL project, left the field of Lincolniana. Claiming to be always a "bitter-ender" on the subject of Lincoln bibliography, Wessen never missed an opportunity to criticize the Monaghan project in his correspondence or trade catalogue. [39] Page  [End Page 71]

In 1943, Volume One of the long-awaited bibliography was printed. Two years later, the second volume was completed and both were released. Reviewers were generally pleased with the work. Paul Angle, who had left the ISHL that year to become the director of the Chicago Historical Society, applied the adjective "definitive" in describing the bibliography. [40] Collectors and bookdealers were less enthusiastic. Those familiar with the Fish-Oakleaf method of organization had to learn an entirely different system. The early bibliographies were organized alphabetically by author or title. Monaghan organized his work chronologically by year. This forced users to rely exclusively upon the index if they lacked the correct copyright date.[41] But such considerations were only minor inconveniences compared to the larger problems that existed.

Upon closer examination, the flaws and inconsistencies in Monaghan assumed proportions that were legion. The major problems occurred in four areas: identifying and providing a census of rarities; identifying and verifying variant editions; an awkward — bordering on capricious — standard for inclusion and exclusion of titles; and an excessive reliance upon the holdings of the ISHL. The result was a bibliography that satisfied neither collectors nor scholars.

Bibliographic rarities were treated in a casual manner. Only a handful of entries were designated as a rarity when, in fact, many more existed. For example, Monaghan failed to identify as rare the edition of Lincoln's Second Inaugural (M600), of which only ten copies are known. In the case of M306, the editor notes only five extant copies but fails to provide a listing of their locations.

Perhaps even more disturbing was Monaghan's indifference toward identifying and listing all variant editions. All too often, he dismissed the issue with the terse phrase "two other variants" but failed to offer any further information. Variant editions mentioned in previous Lincoln bibliographies were noted by Monaghan, but Page  [End Page 72]

 Monaghan 267 described as "a Copperhead satire."
Monaghan 267 described as "a Copperhead satire." Page  [End Page 73]
he did not verify all of these citations. For example, in the explanatory note for M6, the editor wrote "R[itchie] notes this with Towers imprint. F[ish] 523 describes copy with 16 p." In both instances, Monaghan failed to locate a copy. When the Library of Congress published a catalogue of the Alfred Whital Stern collection, many variants of items not listed in Monaghan were noted. These omissions revealed that Monaghan was not as thorough in this research as the ISHL advertised. [42]

The test for inclusion and exclusion of materials was, in many instances, capricious. Collectors must have been puzzled over the inclusion of M215 when the editor admitted it to be "a one copy edition published as a curiosity." Again, in the case of M1945, Monaghan based the copyright date upon an educated guess of Daniel H. Newhall. The item itself was believed to be "questionable Lincolniana." On the other hand, an eight-page pamphlet of Isaac Arnold's defense of Lincoln's antislavery stand was excluded from consideration. Other defenses of administration policy, especially those of Anna Ella Carroll's, were not to be found in Monaghan.

These inconsistencies reflected, in no small way, Monaghan's heavy reliance upon the Lincoln items in Governor Horner's collection. Seventy-eight percent of the titles listed in the bibliography were located at the ISHL, as well as 54 percent of all variants. Items conforming to the designation of "questionable Lincolniana" were usually to be found in Springfield. As Monaghan admitted in the Introduction, he, as editor, made many difficult choices. Given his many qualifiers concerning the guidelines of the bibliography, one must have wondered why the ISHL simply did not publish a complete inventory of Governor Horner's library. Certainly the resulting bibliography was wanting in the most important respects for both scholars and collectors. Collectors were given incomplete information concerning first editions, variant editions, and rare editions. Important information about the Great Emancipator found only in the diaries of close associates or in public defenses of the administration failed, in most instances, to meet Monaghan's standards. Perhaps the bibiliography's one saving merit was that it offered updated and additional information supplementing Fish, Oakleaf, and Starr.

The era of the great Lincoln collections has faded. Lincoln collectors still exist, although their numbers are diminished and their Page  [End Page 74] presence only faintly felt. Most of the great collections have gone the way of the auction block or are housed in public institutions. More than sixty-five libraries in the United States contain a special Lincoln Collection. Many libraries inventory their holdings according to Monaghan. Surprisingly, the ISHL does not. The influence of Lincoln collectors — especially Governor Horner — at the time of the Monaghan compilation was certainly a dominant factor in its final organization. The Monaghan bibliography was designed with collectors in mind. Save for the great rarities, a collector conceivably could build a Lincoln library according to Monaghan citations, resting comfortably with the thought that all collectable titles were listed.

Whatever the merits of the collector's approach to bibliography, they did not comport well with the needs of major research libraries. Wessen understood that collecting all or most of the existing Lincolniana was an impossible task. Each passing year produced a growing body of additional Lincoln literature. Individuals died and their collections were sold, but research libraries endured. Thus, Wessen reasoned, it only made sense to organize a Lincoln bibliography to meet the needs of scholars and large research libraries. If being comprehensive meant alienating collectors, Wessen was prepared to bear the brunt of their wrath. Unfortunately, Wessen's timing was bad; the Monaghan bibliography effectively stifled all competition and prevails to this day.[43] Page  [End Page 75]


  1. Robert K. Murray and Tim H. Blessing, "The Presidential Performance Study: A Progress Report," Journal of American History 70 (Dec. 1983): 535–55. return to text
  2. Mark E. Neely, Jr., "The Lincoln Theme since Randall's Call: The Promises and Perils of Professionalism," Papers of the Abraham Lincoln Association 1 (1979): 28, n5. return to text
  3. Daniel Fish, "Lincoln Collectors and Lincoln Bibliography," Bibliographical Society of America Proceedings and Papers 3 (1908): 49–64.return to text
  4. Daniel Fish, Lincoln Literature: A Bibliographical Account of Books and Pamphlets Relating to Abraham Lincoln, as cited in Jay Monaghan, Lincoln Bibliography, 1839–1939 (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1943), 1: xix–xx.return to text
  5. For detailed histories of the early Lincoln bibliographies, see Ernest J. Wessen, "Lincoln Bibliography — Its Present Status and Needs," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 34 (1940): 327–48, and Monaghan, Lincoln Bibliography, xvii–xliii. return to text
  6. Wessen, "Lincoln Bibliography," 340. return to text
  7. Joseph Benjamin Oakleaf, Lincoln Bibliography (Cedar Rapids: Torch Press, 1925), 7. return to text
  8. A brief description of these collections is found in Albert H. Griffith, "Lincoln Literature, Lincoln Collectors, and Lincoln Collections," Wisconsin Magazine of History 15 (Sept. 1931): 148–67.return to text
  9. Ernest J. Wessen and James J. Monaghan, "Lincoln Bibliography: An Amicable Argument," Abraham Lincoln Quarterly 1 (Dec. 1940): 192–206. Helpful insights were also obtained from John Hoffmann of the Illinois Historical Survey. Martha O. Friedman, Univesity of Illinois History and Philosophy librarian, enlightened me on British bibliographic efforts during this period.return to text
  10. John W. Starr to William E. Barton, Oct. 10, 1925, William E. Barton Papers, Lincoln Room, University of Illinois, Urbana; Henry Horner to J. B. Oakleaf, Jan. 16, 1930, and Oakleaf to Horner, Jan. 17, 1930, Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, Illinois State Historical Library [ISHL], Springfield. return to text
  11. James W. Bollinger to Paul Angle, June 7, 1930, Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, ISHL. return to text
  12. Bollinger to Angle, June 12, 1930, and Bollinger to Angle, June 13, 1930, Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, ISHL.return to text
  13. Bollinger to Angle, June 12, 1930. return to text
  14. Bollinger to Angle, June 13, 1930. return to text
  15. Angle to Bollinger, June 14, 1930, Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, ISHL.return to text
  16. Henry Horner to Angle, June 17, 1930, Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, ISHL; Angle to Horner, June 19, 1930, Abraham Lincoln Association Papers.return to text
  17. J. L. Oakleaf to Horner, July 5, 1930, and Horner to Oakleaf, July 8, 1930, Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, ISHL.return to text
  18. Oakleaf to Horner, July 12, 1930, Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, ISHL.return to text
  19. Thomas B. Littlewood, Horner of Illinois (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969), 23–24.return to text
  20. Paul Angle, On a Variety of Subjects (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society and The Caxton Club, 1974), 75.return to text
  21. Angle to Horner, March 12, 1934, Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, ISHL.return to text
  22. Ibid.return to text
  23. Ibid.return to text
  24. Theodore C. Pease to James G. Randall, Nov. 18, 1938, James Garfield Randall Papers, University of Illinois Archives, Urbana. I would like to thank David H. Donald, Harvard University, for granting permission to use this restricted collection. For further information on the ISHL-IHS split, see Robert M. Sutton, "The Illinois Historical Survey, 1909 to 1939: Collecting and Publishing the European Sources," Non Solus 10 (1984): 27–34.return to text
  25. Irving Dilliard, "Historian in Cowboy Boots: Jay Monaghan, 1893–1980," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 74 (Winter 1981): 261–78. Monaghan's transcript can be found in the James G. Randall Papers, University of Illinois Archives.return to text
  26. Angle to Lloyd Lewis, June 15, 1939, Illinois State Historical Library Letters L-MC, 1939, ISHL. return to text
  27. Memo on the Lincoln Bibliography, James G. Randall Papers, University of Illinois Archives. The rough draft of the bibliography can be found in Box 3 of the Randall Papers. Randall did not keep his project a secret, describing it to such Lincoln luminaries as Angle and Carl Sandburg. Angle claimed that "for scholarly purposes," Randall's project would "probably be even more valuable than the one we are getting out." Angle to Randall, Nov. 18, 1942, Randall to Angle, Nov. 17, 1942, James G. Randall Papers, Library of Congress; and Randall to Sandburg, May 7, 1931, Carl Sandburg Papers, University of Illinois, Urbana. return to text
  28. Ralph Newman to Harry Pratt, July 19, 1939, Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, ISHL.return to text
  29. Ibid.; Newman to Pratt, Sept. 19, 1939, Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, ISHL.return to text
  30. Ernest Wessen to Henrietta Calhoun Horner, Feb. 7, 1947, Harlan Hoyt Horner Papers, Lincoln Room, University of Illinois; Ernest J. Wessen, "Recent Discoveries in Lincolniana," Publishers' Weekly, Nov. 19, 1938, 1814–16, and Wessen, Lincoln Bibliography. In a letter to Mrs. William Burton, Wessen stated, "today the fraud, fish, is on the tongue of most collectors; while the men who did the work, hart and Boyd, are forgotten." Wessen to Barton, Aug. 16, 1939, William E. Barton Papers, Lincoln Room, University of Illinois. return to text
  31. Wessen, "Recent Discoveries," 1814. return to text
  32. Wessen to Henrietta Horner, Feb. 7, 1947. return to text
  33. The debate can be found in Wessen and Monaghan, "Lincoln Bibliography: An Amicable Argument." return to text
  34. Ibid.return to text
  35. Ibid.return to text
  36. Ibid.return to text
  37. Ibid.return to text
  38. Monaghan ignored many of the collections mentioned in Griffith's 1932 article.return to text
  39. Wessen to Henrietta Horner, Feb. 7, 1947, and various issues of Midland Notes. One of Wessen's more biting invectives on the ISHL bibliography is revealed in his description of The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning, vol. 1 (Midland Notes 33, entry 75): "As all who know your cataloger will agree, he's a simple-minded soul. Puhlease: Will someone undertake to explain this to him. The above book was issued as Volume II, of the Lincoln Series! (Note, if you please ... Lincoln Series!) Note, too, that one of the editors was one Theodore Calvin Pease. So much for that! Volume XXXVI of the same Collections is the first volume of Monaghan's Lincoln Bibliography. Now turn to page xxvi of this work and thereon you'll find this same Theodore C. Pease accredited with devising the formula ... the fantastic abracadabra by which the admissibility of a title to Lincoln Bibliography is determined. Therein, this same Pease, naming this book by title, kicks it out of Lincoln Bibliography; kicks out a book which he, as an official of the Illinois [State] Historical Society, had admitted to the Society's Lincoln Series! And that's just one of the many things we don't understand about the Illinois School of Bibliography ... and God grant that it never extend beyond the State lines!" return to text
  40. Paul Angle, "The Lincoln Collector: The New Lincoln Bibliography," Abraham Lincoln Quarterly 2 (June 1945): 304–6.return to text
  41. Newman to Henrietta Horner, March 10, 1949, Harlan Hoyt Horner Papers, Lincoln Room, University of Illinois. return to text
  42. The announcement proclaimed, "hereafter, with this convenient instrument at hand, it will be inexcusable to have serious omissions in any selective list." ISHL announcement, Feb. 7, 1945, James G. Randall Papers, University of Illinois Archives.return to text
  43. In 1986, Meckler Publishing Corporation began to solicit compilers for a new "Bibliographies of the Presidents" series. The guidelines for compilers, as well as several subsequent published volumes, reveal a bibliography that provides annotated entries on basic research and reference works dealing with the "life and times" of each president. This approach is useful for scholars but ignores many of the concerns of the collector and bibliographer. Juvenile literature is specifically excluded, and many contemporary pamphlets that comment on administration policy will probably also fall by the wayside. The bibliography is being compiled by Frank J. Williams and will comprise two volumes. Less ambitious in scope is Fenton S. Martin and Robert U. Goehlert, American Presidents: A Bibliography (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1987), 181–263. Several specialized bibliographies have appeared, notably Albert J. Menendez, Religion and the U.S. Presidency: A Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishing, 1986), 67–76; Elizabeth W. Matthews, Lincoln as a Lawyer: An Annotated Bibliography (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991) and Robert W. Johannsen, "Abraham Lincoln: The Illinois Years," in A Guide to the History of Illinois, ed. John Hoffmann (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), 189–201.return to text