Dick Johnson submitted this review of Fred Reed's new book, Abraham Lincoln: The Image of His Greatness. -Editor This book is misnamed. It is called Abraham Lincoln; The Image of His Greatness. It should be Images. There are a phenomenal 926 images in the book! It is a picture book without being a picture book (because of its useful adjacent text). On the other hand the word "Greatness" was well chosen. In addition to Lincoln the man, the same greatness could be said of the Lincoln book, and perhaps even the author himself, Fred "Lincoln" Reed, for compiling in one place such a galaxy of collectible Abe Lincoln items. Can you say "Lincolniana extravaganza"?
The book is divided into four time periods. But don't look for this to coincide with the four period issues on the reverses of the 2009 Lincoln cents, or the four U.S. postage stamps, all issued this same Lincoln Bicentennial year. Those occupy Lincoln's lifetime.
Fred Reed's periods divide the bicentennial's 200 years. Chapter 1 lists items issued during Abe's lifetime. Fred named all others with similar alliterative words for succeeding 50-year periods: Ideal, Idol and Icon. There is a fifth chapter that projects Lincolniana into the future, "Lincoln the Irrelevant?" (perhaps reflecting the political correctness that is eliminating the proper study of Lincoln in today's grade schools).
What is amazing is the vastness and variety of material portrayed among all the images. I did a count as best I could. There are more engravings than anything else. This includes 125 paper money images (that includes bonds, checks, certificates, receipts) plus 135 etchings (prints, CDVs, invitations, trade cards, mourning cards and such).
For other numismatists, there are 46 coin images (U.S., foreign, patterns); 93 medals (with a couple plaques), 20 tokens. For the philatelist, 62 stamps, plus 32 post cards, covers and stationery items.
Photographs dominate throughout the book, 59 of them; there are 57 images from motion picture films and the stage. Nine paintings. Thirty-two images of sculpture, statues and busts (even one on my Lincoln bust -- thanks, Fred).
Magazine covers, 71, also include some title pages and advertisements; 12 news clippings. There are 64 drawings, including cartoons, 11 color lithographs (including those on cigar boxes).
Among other collectibles are 21 pinbacks and badges, 15 ferrotypes, 11 posters, 7 license plates, 4 cloth patches, 8 tickets, 22 labels, some autographed letters, plus one each: banner, button, pocket watch, album cover and one inlaid box. Doesn't that prove the variety?
If this is considered a numismatic book it revels in "associated items" -- objects so closely related to the subject theme that they can be collected alongside the numismatic items just to amplify the topic. This book more than accomplishes that. It is a delight to the eyes and a shopping list to the serious collector. I can imagine any Lincoln collector turning each page and lusting to add the items to his collection illustrated in the book.
Author Reed's own Lincoln collection served as the core of the items illustrated. To this he added showpieces gathered over a wide sweep of archives and fellow Lincoln aficionados' holdings. His acknowledgements run two pages, his photo credits are a coterie of individuals, organizations and U.S. Government offices.
Already collectors have nicknamed this work "Abebook." That might be quite the mnemonic coincidence. What a marketing master ploy par excellence. Every time you go on the internet to order a book from abebooks the website you will automatically think of Abebook, the product of Fred Reed's creative mind. Boy is that subliminal advertising!
I couldn't find any errors in the book (certainly, there must be some!). I did find three items, however. I would have used a slightly different term in the description of an item illustrated. For example: the "medallion" of three presidents (Grant, Lincoln, Washington) page 139, should have been identified as an engraving, that is, an engraved print. No such engraved medallic item exists, which "medallion" leads one to believe.
Also the Lincoln portrait mounted on a wood board (figure 2.202, p 172) -- despite the legend underneath -- was made of "macerated currency" the preferred term in deference to "shredded currency" as so stated. This certainly was not Fred's fault. Most of these souvenir concoctions were produced by W.H. Abbott who dominated the custom which lasted from 1870-1940, by obtaining obsolete and worn U.S. paper currency in shredded form but could only be molded in a macerated form.
I would like to have had the 1860 "Rail Splitter of the West" token illustrated on page 17 credited to Darwin Ellis instead of just "Ellis" so it would not be confused with a handful of other Ellis engravers (including Jarvis, Darwin's son, who both worked for Scovill in Waterbury, and Mint artist Salathiel Ellis, no relation).
So this book is a delight for the eye -- for any American eye -- perhaps a "want list" for a collector, a source book for the Lincoln researcher, and a tribute to the American Ideal / Icon / Idol. It will be in use a great many times, I predict, before it could be resurrected in fifty or a hundred years for the next anniversary of our greatest president.
To order, visit the Whitman web site: Abraham Lincoln: The Image of His Greatness (www.whitmanbooks.com/Default.aspx?Page=81&ProductID=0794827047)
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