Lincoln Presidential Library acquires Law Book used by Lincoln

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Volume 1 (left) and the newly acquired Volume 2 (right) of “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence.” Volume 1 (left) and the newly acquired Volume 2 (right) of “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence.”

SPRINGFIELD – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has acquired a law book used by President Lincoln in his early years as a lawyer.

Museum officials say the book is the second volume in a three-volume set called “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” by Simon Greenleaf. In acquiring this book, the Library will reunite it with the first volume in the set. At this time, the location of the third book remains a mystery.

The law book was used by Lincoln during his time as an attorney and considered “one of the most important for a young lawyer to master.” In two surviving letters to aspiring young attorneys, he lists it as one of four books they must master.

Officials say the book is signed “Lincoln & Herndon” by Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon. They were partners for 17 years, with 120 books in their library.  Their firm eventually became Herndon & Orendorff, which closed in 1909 and many of the books were sold.

Today, about half of those books reside in the Lincoln Presidential Library, and the other half are in the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago.

Curator for the Presidential Library James Cornelius says while they have learned more about Lincoln’s career, each discovery raises new questions.

“When and why did the firm get rid of this book that Lincoln used so often? Did they buy a later edition? Maybe the answers will be in the next book or document that someone donates,” Cornelius comments.

The Montana Historical Society donated the book to the Lincoln Presidential Library. Montana’s Historical Society received the book in 1927 from a Helena resident who had gotten it from his father, who had bought it years earlier.

According to the Society’s officials, the book did not fit in with their collection, so they were happy to find the Library was interested in it.

“It’s a pleasure to have these two volumes reunited here at the Lincoln Presidential Library, and we appreciate the Montana Historical Society’s generosity,” says ALPLM’s acting executive director Nadine O’Leary.

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