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Abraham Lincoln library gets book collection of famed biographer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A treasure trove of about 130 books once owned by a renowned Abraham Lincoln biographer has been donated to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential 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 comments, observances and notations.

The donation comes from the Lincoln Land Community College Library, which was given the books by Thomas’ widow, Salome “Sally” Pasfield Thomas, before her death in 1999.

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

“(Thomas’) biography on Lincoln was kind of the gold standard for that era,” Ian Hunt, the museum’s chief of acquisitions, 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 is called the ‘Lincoln Day-by-Day.’ There are scholars who look at this research every single day (and he’s) someone I go to on a regular basis.”

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

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

During his time in Springfield, Thomas headed the Abraham Lincoln Association’s research program and was also a trustee of the Illinois State Historical Library.

The books will go into a special collection at the museum, which already contains Thomas’ personal papers and manuscripts.

“I know that we’re doing the right thing,” Tammy Kuhn-Schnell, dean of the LLCC Library, said of the donation. “It’s just going to further the scholarship of Lincoln and Thomas himself into future generations.”

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