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Lincoln's Letters (And More) At Newberry

By Lauri Apple in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 8, 2009 8:20PM

LincolnBible-1.jpg This week the Newberry Library kicks off With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit, which opens on October 10 and runs through December 19, features a fascinating collection of letters, books, photos, and other artifacts, including the Bible upon which Lincoln swore the oath of office and a copy of what reportedly was Mary Todd Lincoln's favorite photo of her boo (an 1859 portrait in which is hair was brushed). Visitors can get a real sense of the daily workings of Lincoln's office, which intercepted around 300 letters per day; Lincoln handled much of the correspondence himself, including one man's offer to spy on the Confederacy on the Union's behalf.

Dr. John Sellers, curator of all things Lincoln at the Library of Congress, came to the Newberry to help open the exhibit. After working on the history of #16 for more than 25 years, he has become the go-to guy for any researcher or scholar who takes up Lincoln's life as a subject. In addition to guiding the likes of Doris Kearns Goodwin on down through the Lincoln archives, Sellers buys documents, picks out forgeries, and helps with archiving projects. Perhaps more than anyone on earth, he knows Lincoln's quirks as a writer -- his habit of crossing t's from right to left; lifting the final "n" in "Lincoln" to be higher on the line than the rest of his surname; and his peripatetic sentences. "You can't tell where he's going, when he's writing a long sentence," Sellers says. "He'll go off on unexpected tangents. His thinking was different."

Newberry Library, Smith and East Galleries, 60 W Walton, open Monday, Friday, and Saturday from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Closed Sundays and certain holidays.