Lincoln, Short and Tall

More new books about Lincoln, some more overwhelming than others.

The Last Known Photo of Abraham Lincoln By now if you have any interest in American history or Abraham Lincoln, you are aware that 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of his birth, and naturally there is a gush of books adding to the already voluminous Lincoln bibliography. I have already dealt with a few of these tomes earlier, knowing an update would be useful as the year wore on. Rather than wading through more Lincoln titles, I am inclined to focus on the long and the short of recent Lincoln scholarship.

Princeton mentor emeritus James M. McPherson offers a paradigm of concision with his Abraham Lincoln (Oxford University Press), a 96-page introductory essay with a well-annotated bibliography for the benefit of the curious and the diligent. Historian Michael Burlingame (The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln) has reportedly been working on this two-volume, 2,024-page magnum opus, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Johns Hopkins University Press), for years, using field notes of previous scholarship, neglected newspapers, and mountain ranges of archival material.

Christopher Hitchens writes of this impressive work, "No review could do complete justice to the magnificent two-volume biography that has been so well-wrought by Michael Burlingame," but it didn't stop him from trying; Hitchens goes on:
"But one way of paying tribute to it is to say that it introduces the elusive idea of destiny from the very start, and one means of illustrating this is to show how the earlier chapters continually prefigure, or body forth, the more momentous events that are to be dealt with in the later ones."
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