As the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address approaches, Albert Whitman & Company is marking the date by reissuing a picture book that lay forgotten in the company’s archives for more than half a century.
According to Albert Whitman senior editor Wendy McClure, during the summer of 2010, Kathleen Spale – then a graduate student in Library and Information Science at Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and a Whitman intern – was assigned to catalog the 94-year-old Chicago-area publishing company’s archived collection of 1,600 books packed in 22 bins. While doing so, Spale discovered a copy of a 1947 Whitman release, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, with WPA-style mural designs by the modernist painter and muralist James Daugherty (1889-1974). Daugherty, who was best known for designing propaganda posters for the U.S. government during World War I, also wrote and illustrated a number of picture books with American history themes. He received the 1940 Newbery Medal for Daniel Boone (Viking) and a Caldecott Honor in 1957 for Gillespie and the Guards (Viking), written by Benjamin Elkin.
Spale, who’d never heard of Daugherty before embarking on the project, recalls that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address “stood out” from the rest of the books she was cataloging due to the “rich details” of the illustrations, which she called “epic.”
“The characters were larger than life,” she says, explaining that she immediately brought the book to the attention of Whitman senior editors McClure and Abby Levine, as well as then-v-p of publishing Josalyn Moran, who decided to prepare it for reissue. “The time seemed right, with the anniversary coming up,” McClure says. “It was a book that needed to be in the world again.”
For the Daugherty rerelease, McClure and Nick Tiemersma, Whitman’s art director, were committed to matching the colors of each illustration with the original page spreads. Tiemersma went through each of the five copies discovered in the archives, and rescanned the most pristine pages from each copy. Two copies of the 1947 edition were also purchased on eBay and used in the effort to match the art as closely as possible to the original illustrations.
“The pages had yellowed, so we had to look at different copies to make sure we got the colors right,” Tiemersma says, explaining that the lettering on each illustration, which was handwritten by Daugherty, was also reproduced with the same attention to the original detail and color.
“It was unprecendented,” McClure says of the company’s commitment to replicating the book’s original production values. “We’ve had such a long history; being able to bring something out of that history was a great experience.”
Besides an afterward by Lincoln scholar Gabor Boritt, the director emeritus of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, the only changes made to the updated edition are the inclusion of tip sheets at the back of the book. The tip sheets provide the historic context for the 15 page spreads, each of which are reproduced in miniature above the corresponding text. The original tip sheets, which were not illustrated, were unbound typed pages inserted into one of the archived original copies. McClure calls the tip sheets “mysterious”; she and her colleagues do not know whether the loose pages were inserted into more than one of the original copies of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But, she says, “they’re one of [her] favorite parts of the book.”
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address will be released on February 1, less than two weeks before the 204th anniversary of the president’s birthday.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, illus. by James Daugherty. Albert Whitman, $19.99 Feb. ISBN 978-0-807-54550-8