Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography

December 01, 2012 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian

Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography. Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Many people are crowding theaters to see Steven Spielberg's  film, Lincoln. To any reader who wants a closer look at the sixteenth president, I propose they get a copy of Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography. 

The book, written by Philip B. Kunhardt, Philip B. Kunhardt III and Pete W. Kunhardt, has the appearance of a lush coffee table book, partly because of its lavish illustrations. But don't let that fool you, this book is truly a biography. The photos are an integral part of the book and they help tell the story of Lincoln, the man, his presidency and the people that were part of his life, both personally and professionally.

It's hard to describe how this book provides such an intimate look at Lincoln and his associates. You almost have to see it to really experience the intimacy of these images. Most of the 900 illustrations are drawn from the Frederick Hill Meserve private family collection, a 19th-century photo archive that specializes in Lincoln material. The illustrations provide both a visual record of Lincoln's life and a compelling view of the Civil War from the president's perspective.

The text relies heavily on quotations from Lincoln and his contemporaries and features many of the subject's own words as well as eyewitness accounts, which are set off in shaded areas. Each month of Lincoln's presidency is given a double-page spread devoted to pictures of the significant and ordinary people he encountered during that time period.

Lincoln is certainly iconic in every sense of the word, but this book humanizes him as it describes the man who "wrote like a poet, laughed like a hyena, and cried real tears."

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