From the Lincoln Collection - Abraham Lincoln : a Biography

This week’s book review is Abraham Lincoln : a Biography by Benjamin Platt Thomas.

Published in 1952, and still in print, this one volume biography remains as one of the most definitive, concise, and readable biographies available to newcomers just beginning their study of Abraham Lincoln.  “The reader gets not only an understanding portrayal of Lincoln, but an equally comprehensive account of great and complex events” writes Kenneth P. Williams in his praise of the book.  Mr. Williams is also a Lincoln and Civil War scholar having written Lincoln finds a General; a Military Study of the Civil War.

Lincoln's biography is arranged chronologically according the following table of contents:

 1 “The Short and Simple Annals of the Poor”    11 Making of a President

 2 Young Man on His Own                              12 Peace or a Sword

 3 Frontier Legislator: His Love Affairs              13 A War for Democracy

 4 Courtship and Marriage                              14 Shadows on the White House

 5 Lawyer – Politician                                    15 McClellan in Command

 6 The Gentleman from Illinois                         16 "The Occasion is Piled High with Difficulty"

 7 Echoes of National Conflict                         17 The Signs Look Better

 8 Lincoln Re-enters Politics                           18 "There Are No Lincoln Men"

 9 A Political Plunge                                      19 Profile of a President

10 Defeated for the Senate                            20 To Bind Up the Nation's Wounds

This masterful work by Thomas was built on his strength as a lifelong Lincoln scholar.  In 1932, he became the executive secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association in Springfield, Illinois.  In addition to his biography of Lincoln, Thomas has written six other books on the subjects of Lincoln, slavery, and the Civil War.  He was also the associate editor of the Abraham Lincoln Quarterly, as well as, editorial adviser to the eight volume Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.

For the beginner, who now wants to know even more about the life and times of our 16th President, Thomas ends with a chapter on “Lincoln Literature.”  The chapter starts out by first discussing full-length biographies, “together with those devoted to the entire Lincoln theme.  Then books dealing with special topics will be appraised under the relevant chapter headings of this book” as outlined above.

Abraham Lincoln : a Biography is one of over 300 titles that make up the Law Library’s Lincoln Collection.  This premier collection was made possible in large part by a generous gift from Professor Ralph Cagle.


Submitted by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian on March 7, 2013

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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