Book Review: LINCOLN SEEN AND HEARD (by Harold Holzer) : AHI

8/11/2001 • Abraham Lincoln, American History Reviews, Richard Nixon

LINCOLN SEEN AND HEARD, by Harold Holzer, University Press of Kansas, 240 pages, $29.95.

In a series of books, most of them co-authored with Mark E. Neely, Jr., and Gabor S. Boritt, Harold Holzer has established himself as an authority on Civil War era iconography. Lincoln Seen and Heard gathers 10 previously published essays or lectures Holzer presented at symposia. He opens the book with an entertaining introduction, describing how his interest in Lincoln was sparked as a fifth-grader, and how the purchase of a Lincoln print in 1973–and a magazine photo of President Richard Nixon in the White House–set him off on the study of Lincoln imagery.

The first three-quarters of the book are devoted to studies of Abraham Lincoln seen–that is, as portrayed in the graphic arts. Holzer analyzes images of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator and commander in chief, as well as depictions of the assassination at Ford’s Theatre. He compares how Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were presented in popular prints and describes Lincoln’s portrayal in pictorial cartoons, published both in the North and South.

The final section of the book includes essays on Lincoln heard–from speeches thanking civilians for a variety of gifts received as president, stumbling as an impromptu orator, saving his eloquence on emancipation for post-Proclamation utterances, and rising to soaring heights with the Gettysburg Address.

The nature of such a compilation necessarily includes some repetition and thematic inconsistency. And although the book contains 57 illustrations, the reader sometimes yearns for a picture of a specific image discussed but not reproduced. However, any occasion to read Holzer on Lincoln in general, and on Lincoln imagery in particular, is welcome. Lincoln Seen and Heard is no exception.

MARK DUNKELMAN is the author of Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier: The Life, Death, and Celebrity of Amos Humiston.