The Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, Jesse Fell, W.
The Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln.
The Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln.

The Autobiography of Abraham Lincoln.

Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1872. Broadside, 24.5” x 19” plus margins; portrait and text in five columns.

The first separate printing and first separate facsimile of Lincoln’s famed autobiographical sketch, originally composed in response to a request from his friend Jesse Fell, printed with a brief account by Fell of the circumstances under which it was written and extracts from a few of Lincoln’s speeches.

Lincoln and Fell became acquainted during a session of the Illinois State Legislature in the winter of 1834–35. Lincoln was serving as a representative and Fell as a lobbyist for MacLean County, Illinois. The two became political friends and saw much of each other in subsequent years. In 1858, when Lincoln came to prominence as a result of his debates with Stephen Douglas, Fell, who had recently returned from a trip east where the public was hungry for information about Lincoln, approached his friend as he came out of the Bloomington, Illinois courthouse one afternoon and asked him for a biographical sketch. Lincoln initially resisted, but the following year gave in, composing a brief autobiography as well as a letter of explanation, both of which he mailed to Fell on 20 December 1859.

Delighted that Lincoln had finally complied and eager to promote his cause, Fell forwarded Lincoln’s autobiography to his friend Joseph J. Lewis in Pennsylvania, who used it for an article that was published in the Chester County (PA) Times, February 11, 1860. Lewis’s article was re-printed in many newspapers and “became the first widely read biographical sketch of Lincoln and served as a basis for the first three Lincoln campaign biographies in book form” (Sage). In 1872, while preparing his biography of Lincoln for publication, Ward H. Lamon wrote to Fell asking him to forward Lincoln’s sketch and its accompanying letter to his publisher, James R. Osgood & Co., for consultation and facsimile publication. Placing no particular value on the original manuscripts when he first received them, Fell had not requested their return, but now retrieved them in response to Lamon’s request. He then forwarded the biographical sketch, but not Lincoln’s letter of explanation, substituting instead his own cover letter. Since Lincoln’s sketch was neither addressed to Fell nor signed, Fell included with his letter clippings in Lincoln’s hand reading "Hon. J. W. Fell" and "Yours very truly/A. Lincoln" which were then pasted onto Lincoln’s sketch. Also added was an emblem and statement testifying to the authenticity of the manuscript, signed by David Davis, Lyman Trumbull, and Charles Sumner, dated at Washington D.C. March 20, 1872. The facsimile was included in Lamon’s biography and published separately in the form of the broadside offered here.

Rare. OCLC records only four copies.

REFERENCES: Not in Monaghan; Stern Collection 4792; Sage, Harold K. Jesse W. Fell and the Lincoln Autobiography in The Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Vol. 3, Issue 1, 1981, pp. 48–58.

CONDITION: Torn through upper right, the tear affecting the portrait, restored, backed with Japanese tissue.

Item #3389

Price: $4,500.00