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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Greene, William G. 'Introduction' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndonr13.html


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the student of Lincolnís life. For one thing, they are legible, which many of the originals are not. Having been copied in Herndonís office under his supervision, they have considerable authority, as well as great utility, when it comes to deciphering the many passages in the originals that are difficult to read. Another consideration is that a substantial number of originals are no longer to be found. Herndon gives part of the reason when he reports that some were lost in an office fire, some were brazenly stolen by people he allowed to examine them, and some, when stored at his farm, were eaten by mice. [22] Other originals Herndon agreed to return to their owners, such as the detailed records provided him by Allan Pinker-ton, soon after to be destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, relating the discovery and circumvention of the Baltimore plot on President-elect Lincolnís life in February 1861. For such material and for originals that escaped the collection after November 1866, the Springer transcriptions at the Huntington Library represent the only known manuscript version still extant.

After Herndonís death, his collection of Lincoln documents became the property of his collaborator, Jesse W. Weik, who drew on them for his own biographical study, The Real Lincoln, published in 1922. Though Weik permitted a few trusted researchers to consult Herndonís materials—Horace White, for his life of Lyman Trumbull, and Joseph Fort Newton, for his book Lincoln and Herndon, to name two—he allowed them little exposure and resisted all attempts by others to purchase them. [23] After The Real Lincoln was published, Weik conferred the ultimate privilege on his old friend, Albert J. Beveridge, by allowing him not only to take possession of the documents but to photostat and transcribe them at will. Beveridgeís access to the testimony of Herndonís informants and the careful and detailed use he made of them are the principal reasons his biography, though unfinished and written nearly seventy years ago, remains the most thorough and authoritative treatment of Lincolnís pre-presidential life.

Many other students of Lincoln were eager to examine Herndonís Lincoln archive during Weikís lifetime, but none of the notable Lincoln biographers of the time, such as Ida M. Tarbell, William E. Barton, or Carl Sandburg, was granted access. When Weik died in 1929, the bulk of the collection was bought by a combine of dealers as a speculation, and after changing hands and remaining on the market for a number of years, the documents were acquired by the Library of Congress in 1941. [24] Sorted and arranged and committed to microfilm in the 1940s, the preponderance of Herndonís informant testimony at long last became available to Lincoln scholars and the public at large.

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Greene, William G. 'Introduction' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndonr13.html
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