A New Birth of Freedom: Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Introduced by Fred Kaplan

Compiled by award-winning biographer Fred Kaplan, this collection, unique to Folio, brings together the best of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, letters and articles to give the reader intimate insight into the particular nature of his political and literary genius.

Published price: US$ 92.95


A New Birth of Freedom: Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln declared that ‘the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here’. That same speech became a foundation stone of American history, literature and culture – as well known as the Declaration of Independence itself. Meanwhile, through Lincoln’s private letters and numerous other speeches, we gain a multi-faceted picture of a powerful mind, a pivotal era in world history and a moral force for justice and compassion that has rarely been equalled.

This new selection brings together the best of what Lincoln thought and said. These speeches, letters and articles convey the development of Lincoln’s career and the particular nature of his political and literary genius. Presented in chronological order, they are grouped according to key periods in Lincoln’s life, with introductory commentaries by the award-winning biographer, Professor Fred Kaplan. A general introduction, detailed chronology, dramatis personae and map of the United States in 1861 illuminate their significance.

‘As a writer, as a politician, and as national leader in a time of crisis, he embraced tolerance for human flaws and patient acceptance of how slowly change occurs’

Production Details

A New Birth of Freedom: Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln book
  • Quarter-bound in metallic buckram with printed Modigliani paper sides
  • Set in Dante
  • 552 pages; frontispiece and 33 pages of colour and black & white plates
  • 10" × 6¾"

Man of the People; Champion of Liberty

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln has consistently been hailed as the greatest US president, by the public and historians alike. His achievements lie at the heart of the nation’s identity, not least his preservation of the Union in the face of a bloody war, and his firmly held view that the Declaration of Independence applied to all men in its dispensation of human rights.

A self-taught lawyer, Lincoln began his political career as an Illinois congressman and became president in March 1861. Within months the Civil War had begun, and Lincoln assumed a defining role in one of the most crucial periods in US history. He is remembered for his political astuteness, but also for his loathing of slavery – ‘the greatest wrong inflicted on any people’. His assassination in 1865 plunged the nation into mourning and ensured his continuing status as a martyr to liberty.

Left: Abraham Lincoln. Glass-plate interpositive (broken) of a photograph by Alexander Hesler, June 3, 1860. (Private Collection, United States. Enquiries via The Folio Society)

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination

Personal, private and illuminating

Interspersed with legal arguments and speeches are Lincoln’s private letters, revealing his dry humour and self-deprecating wit alongside his impassioned flights of rhetorical brilliance. He admits his awkwardness with women; he tries to inspire his brother to industry, ‘Go to work is the only cure for your case’, and he offers sage advice to law students on ethics: ‘if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.’ Even in the midst of arguing passionately about abolition, Lincoln expresses himself with humour, ‘You say if Kansas fairly votes herself a free state, as a christian you will rather rejoice at it. All decent slave-holders talk that way; and I do not doubt their candor. But they never vote that way.’ His words, whether famous or less known, move the reader deeply: ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.’

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

A portrait of a nation

The Folio Society is famed for its award-winning picture research. For this edition, we have collected a superb group of images that bring to life Lincoln and his times. A series of photographs captures intimate glimpses of Lincoln’s family life, as well as era-defining historical moments and movements. They appear in their original state, with cracks and scratches left untouched. Also included are contemporary political cartoons that offer an insight into the partisan rough and tumble politics of the era. The binding features text from the Gettysburg Address, overlain with Lincoln’s portrait.

Illustrations clockwise from above left: The Tallest Ruler on the Globe is Inaugurated at Washington… Caricature (detail) by William Newman, April 1865. MS Lincoln 1. (Houghton Library, Harvard University); The Eagle’s Nest. The Union! It Must and Shall Be Preserved. Coloured lithograph published by E. B. and E. C. Kellog, 1861. (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Washington, DC)

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

Renowned historian and travel writer, Jan Morris, responds to the new Folio edition

Abraham Lincoln is perhaps the most universally respected of all the statesmen of history, honoured across the world, yet in most respects he was almost preternaturally American. Until recently, at least, he was regarded as Uncle Sam personified.

He was humbly born, self-educated, gawky of aspect and homely of humour, which set him apart from his contemporaries among the international leaders of the mid-nineteenth century. No other statesman could talk with such authority about ‘We, the People’.

The Folio Society’s new selection of his writings, A New Birth of Freedom, makes it clear that his prime preoccupation throughout his presidency was the young republic’s development into maturity. His historic task, as I see it, was to interpret and absorb the Declaration of Independence made in the previous century by Thomas Jefferson.

He was a poet of politics. Perhaps no other world statesman, at least among Englishspeakers, has ever expressed his duties in words of such beauty. In his greatest speeches he was not merely appealing to pride of nation, spirit of victory, resolution in hard times: he was speaking lyrically, from heart to heart, human to human. To this day, 150 years after his death, as the new Folio selection movingly demonstrates, his grandest words can still bring tears to one’s eyes.

Abraham Lincoln

About Fred Kaplan

Fred Kaplan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He received a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in 1959 and an MA and PhD from Columbia University in 1966. He has taught at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, California State University at Los Angeles, and at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York from 1967 to 2005. The recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, and National Humanities Center fellowships, his books include Thomas Carlyle: A Biography (1983), a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Award finalist, Dickens: A Biography (1988), Henry James: The Imagination of Genius (1992), Gore Vidal: A Biography (1999), The Singular Mark Twain (2003), Coffee with Mark Twain (2008), and Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer (2008), a Lincoln Prize finalist. Most recently he has published John Quincy Adams: American Visionary (2014). His website is fredkaplanbiographer.com.


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