For the first time in history, all five of Lincoln’s handwritten versions of the Gettysburg Address are presented as full-color, full–size facsimiles — an exclusive from Levenger Press, in partnership with the Library of Congress.

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Long Remembered: Lincoln and His Five Versions of the Gettysburg Address

Long Remembered: Lincoln and His Five Versions of the Gettysburg Address It is etched into one wall of the Lincoln Memorial and into the psyche of millions of Americans: Lincoln’s deeply poetic and quietly passionate Gettysburg Address. The words themselves were written in the creator’s hand not once but at least five times, each version different from the prior.

All five of Lincoln’s handwritten versions are, for the first time, reproduced in true size and color by Levenger Press, in partnership with the Library of Congress. Along with these striking facsimiles (two of which are also provided unbound, and folded as Lincoln did) are the letters, telegrams, programs and maps culled from the prodigious Gettysburg archives at the Library of Congress. Adding context and insight are the narratives by four leading Lincoln scholars.

Find excerpts from these narratives below.

2_GettysburgThumb David C. Mearns and Lloyd A. Dunlap were both highly regarded members of the Library of Congress staff who specialized in Lincoln and the Civil War. This excerpt is from their landmark 1963 study of the Gettysburg Address and explains the provenance of Lincoln’s fifth handwritten version, known as the Bliss Copy.


Since it represents Lincoln’s last-known revision, it has become accepted as the standard text, although it differs from the Bancroft copy, aside from punctuation, only in the omission of “here” in the phrase “they here gave.” The Bliss copy is the only one dated and signed by President Lincoln.

The originals of the manuscripts lithographed for the volume, including the Gettysburg Address, remained with Colonel Bliss and his family until 1949, when they were sold at an auction in New York City. The Lincoln manuscript was purchased by the late Oscar B. Cintas, a businessman of Havana, Cuba, who was once Ambassador to the United States. By his will, the copy became the property of the people of this country, and, at his stipulation, it is now installed in the Lincoln Room in the White House.

3_GettysburgThumb Douglas L. Wilson is the award-winning author of Lincoln’s Sword and the co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. His new commentary for this book explains how and why Lincoln came to write the speech he did—not always for the reasons many people assume.


The calculated brevity of the speech, and the resulting compression of language and expression, doubtless contributed to the confusion of an audience of listeners expecting to hear something very different. But it had great utility for the other audiences that the author undoubtedly had in mind.

The most immediate of these were, of course, millions of newspaper readers. In an age where newspapers were virtually the only access Americans had to news of important events, the great majority of Northern adults would have seen, usually on the front page, not just a notice of the President's speech at the Gettysburg ceremony, but, because of its brevity, the speech itself in its entirety. The occasion was such that even Democratic newspapers, in other respects uniformly hostile to the Lincoln administration, duly carried the telegraphed account of the dedication, which included the brief remarks of the Chief Magistrate.

The experience of the readers of these remarks tended to be very different from that of the listeners at Gettysburg, for as the editor of Harper’s Weekly pointed out a few weeks later, its words could not be read “without kindling emotion.” The praise that the President was apparently most proud of came from none other than the featured speaker at the ceremony, Edward Everett, the nation's most accomplished orator. His compliment came not in the immediate aftermath of the speech at Gettysburg, but after Everett had had a chance to read it the next morning in a newspaper. In a letter written to Lincoln the same day, the great orator said: “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

4_GettysburgThumb Dr. John R. Sellers, recently retired as Lincoln Curator at the Library of Congress, provides a provocative assessment of the two versions of the Gettysburg Address known as the Nicolay and Hay copies.


These two earliest copies are, unquestionably, genuine Lincoln autographs. But are the names by which they are known legally correct, or even merited? The only evidence that the Nicolay draft, judged by most Lincoln scholars to be the earliest copy, was once owned by John G. Nicolay, Lincoln’s private secretary, is a statement Nicolay’s daughter Helen made to Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son….

The Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address presents an even greater conundrum. It is certainly the most mysterious of the five surviving drafts; we do not know exactly when or why it was written.

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