Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Official Beginning - The Launch of Lincolniana

It's difficult to suggest that there is a need for a Lincoln-specific blog. There are already at least a half-dozen others, and a couple of these are really strong. One is written by a real-life Lincoln author, who is currently working on (by my count) his fourth Lincoln book. On top of this, there are literally dozens of excellent Lincoln-specific websites (and uncounted more lousy ones), many developed and funded by well-respected organizations.

I can't sincerely argue that cyberspace needs my Lincoln blog, which has prevented me from starting this project for several years. Over that time, a few friends have suggested I should throw my hat in the ring and "start a Lincoln blog," but I've always been reluctant. I figured I'd do better to focus on the projects I'd already begun -- especially my Internet projects -- rather than adding something new.

But over the last year, the idea of starting a Lincoln blog has really been gnawing at me, and I've spent some time over the last six months preparing for the possibility. On a whim, one afternoon I searched to see if the address I would like to use was available; finding it available, I immediately reserved it. I started looking for ways to develop daily Internet searching habits to look for timely content, and I confronted the central question of what my blog might focus on. Then I considered how to design the site (having decided that traditional templates would not meet my desires).

You see the decisions that I've made over the past few months. I've designed a wide blog layout, with three columns instead of two, and put on it most of the site elements I wanted (there may still be another section of links added). I've started posting for about a month before really telling anyone, to get comfortable and decide that I really do want to do this right now.

And now I'm announcing the launch of my Lincoln blog, Lincolniana. The title is a throwback to a once-common, but now rarely used, term in the Lincoln field -- it refers to the artifacts that one can collect related to Lincoln. In the past, this had a wide meaning, from physical things that Lincoln touched or owned, especially actual copies of correspondence or other writing, to things produced about Lincoln -- copies of his writings, artwork, books, and eventually the trove of knick-knacks and usually kitschy products that featured Abraham Lincoln's likeness. And some of the early great collections of Lincoln artifacts outside of the Lincoln family, including some great collections of Lincoln-related books eventually donated to libraries, are known as Collections of Lincolniana (such as the Barton Collection of Lincolniana, which forms the basis of the University of Chicago's Lincoln collection, or more impressively, the Oldroyd Collection of Lincolniana, which forms the core of the Ford's Theatre Museum Collection). There are fewer such private Lincoln collections today, and they are rarely classified as collections of Lincolniana.

In some small ways, I hope that my blog will become a fine Internet collection of Lincoln materials befitting its name. Unlike some collectors, I will not post every Lincoln fact or article I can find; like the best collectors, I hope to discriminate wisely. In some ways, I will cast a wide net, and include discussions of Lincoln's legacy and influence today, especially in politics, but also in the arts -- including commercial arts, like advertising. In other ways, I will be more old-fashioned. I will focus much attention on Lincoln-specific books, documentaries, and other events, alerting people to upcoming things of interest and providing some (hopefully) timely reviews of this Lincoln material.

For the next few months, this will be more than enough, given the intensified interest in Lincoln during this, the bicentennial anniversary of his birth in 1809. Beyond that, I may add other elements, including some occasional essays on Lincoln that I write based more on my interests, rather than publishing cycles or news coverage.

So that is the stated scope of this blog. It is large enough to keep me busy for a long, long time, but not so helter-skelter as it might be. I think that many people will find it interesting (there is a significant audience for those Lincoln books, articles, programs, and exhibits that are appear in large numbers every year). The joke in publishing is that you can multiply your book sales by putting Lincoln's name in the title. If you are a Lincoln buff, or as I sometimes classify myself, A Lincoln Nut, welcome. Pass the blog address on to your friends -- they're welcome too.

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