A Little Lincoln at the WPL

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In September, Dan Hinchen joined the Winchester Public Library staff as a project archivist to work on a three-part project related to the library’s local history collection. One part of the project regarded the Library’s Lincoln & Lee collection. This collection, originally compiled by former Winchester Library Trustee Edgar J. Rich, consists primarily of published materials relating to Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and the Civil War.

As an academic hobby, Mr. Rich pursued study of the Civil War and, more particularly, the lives of Lincoln and Lee. The collection consists mainly of publications created around the turn of the 20th century, though a few date back to before the Civil War. There is also correspondence between Rich and his contemporaries who shared a passion for Civil War history; scrapbooks of newspaper clippings; memoirs and speeches prepared by Rich on various topics; and materials related to several battlefield sites and parks. These materials were gifted to the Winchester Public Library at the time of Mr. Rich’s death and were meant to be a research collection for those interested in the topics therein.

Much of the collection is not very remarkable since nearly all of the material is published and is available in other places. However, as with any archival collection, there is always a little surprise waiting. In the case of the Lincoln & Lee Collection, though, the surprise was tiny, indeed! Tucked into a nondescript white envelope and somewhat buried in an archival box was the smallest published book that Dan has personally ever handled (seen below).

Title page of the miniature edition of the Addresses of Abraham Lincoln.
Title page of the miniature edition of the “Addresses of Abraham Lincoln.”

Published in 1929 by the Kingsport Press in Kingsport, Tenn., the Addresses of Abraham Lincoln was touted as the smallest book in America when it was printed. The book contains the full text of four Lincoln speeches printed over 139 pages. The speeches included are the Gettysburg Address, his Second Inaugural Address, “A House Divided”, and “Equality in a Republic.” The little volume was accompanied in its envelope by a newspaper article from the 1930s describing a copy then held at the library of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (According to the MIT library catalog, the volume is still there as part of their non-circulating Institute Archives!)

According to the Archives of the City of Kingsport, this book was the first of a set of three miniature volumes; it was followed by The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge (1930), and Washington’s Farewell
(1932). The Lincoln volume was printed with approximately fifty words per page in ten lines of two-point type. Bromer Booksellers in Boston provides even more detailed information about the set, asserting that the volumes measured only 5/8” x 7/8”, smaller than a standard postage stamp. You can see what else they have to say about the volumes and Kingsport Press here.

One of the joys of working in archives is the unexpected things found when going through the boxes and folders, but none of the Library staff, especially Dan, ever expected such a tiny surprise!

To learn more about what is available at the library related to the local history of Winchester, you can start by reading the Local History page of the library website or contacting the Information Services staff at [email protected].

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