The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term project dedicated to identifying, imaging, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime (1809-1865). After locating the documents, project staff will prepare a high-resolution color digital image of each page. Working from these electronic surrogates, project editors will create authoritative transcriptions of the documents, markup their structural features according to the guidelines developed by the Model Editions Partnership and the Text Encoding Initiative, and provide explanatory annotations. The project will then publish the text files, linked to the graphic images of the originals, on a publicly accessible website.
The combined expertise of Lincoln scholars, nineteenth-century historians, information technology specialists, and historical documentary editors will produce a comprehensive collection of texts from the life of Abraham Lincoln. Drawing on the best practices of the now-mature discipline of scholarly documentary editing, the Papers of Abraham Lincoln will ultimately replace Roy P. Basler et al., eds., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), which published only texts written by Lincoln. The Papers of Abraham Lincoln will consist of three series. The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition (2000) comprises the comprehensive component of Series I: Legal Papers. Series II: Illinois Papers and Series III: Presidential Papers will complete the edition.
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln will vitalize new generations of scholarship on Abraham Lincoln, antebellum America, and the Civil War era. While The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln was an extraordinary achievement, the series' lack of incoming correspondence, light annotation, and outmoded transcription policies limit its future usefulness. With the inclusion of incoming correspondence, richer annotation with full citation of sources, and closer attention to textual details, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln will offer scholars, students, and lay readers a fresh, new look at the words and works of America's most admired citizen and the thousands of statesmen, politicians, and ordinary citizens whose lives he touched.
By identifying hitherto unknown or obscure documents and making these and better-known texts readily accessible, the project will also open new vistas on a critical period of the nation's history. Any documentary editing project of high standards and broad scope inevitably provides new and exciting information about the historical context in which its principal subject lived. There is scarcely a more compelling context than the American Civil War and no more central individual than Abraham Lincoln.