Lincoln Presidential Library Receives Famous Biographer’s Book Collection

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A treasure of approximately 130 books that once belonged to a famous Abraham Lincoln biographer has been donated to the Presidential Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield.

The books that once belonged to Benjamin Thomas could be a gold mine for Lincoln scholars, as many of them contain the author’s handwritten commentaries, observances, and notations.

The donation comes from the library at Lincoln Land Community College, which received the books from Thomas’ widow, Salome “Sally” Pasfield Thomas, before her death in 1999.

Benjamin Thomas lived in Springfield from 1932 until his death in 1956. During this period his best-known works were published, including “Lincoln’s New Salem” in 1934 and “Abraham Lincoln: A Biography” in 1952.

“[Thomas’] the Lincoln biography was sort of the gold standard for those times, ”Ian Hunt, museum’s chief acquisitions officer, told the State Journal-Register. “I would say he’s still very high in the pantheon, not only because of the 1952 book, but also because he had a heavy hand in what’s called ‘Lincoln Day-by-Day.’ He there are academics who review this research every day (and this is) someone I go to on a regular basis.

Hunt accepted the collection earlier this week at a ceremony on the LLCC campus.

The books are a combination of biographies of Lincoln and other historical figures from this period, as well as reference works on the Civil War, Hunt said.

While in Springfield, Thomas led the research program of the Abraham Lincoln Association and was also a trustee of the Illinois State Historical Library.

The books will go to a special museum collection, which already contains Thomas’s personal papers and manuscripts.

“I know we are doing the right thing,” said Tammy Kuhn-Schnell, Dean of the LLCC Library, of the donation. “It’s just going to advance the scholarship of Lincoln and Thomas himself in future generations.”


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