Documentary Editing, Association for


Date of this Version


Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 24, Number 2, June 2002.

ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)


2002 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


The challenges of the past two and one-half years for the staff of the Lincoln Legal Papers have been daunting. First, we had to take a successful project through the transition from one director to another and from one form of publication to another. Then, in quick succession, we began a larger initiative-the Papers of Abraham Lincoln-of which the Lincoln Legal Papers became a part.

The Lincoln Legal Papers began in 1985 as a five-year project to locate and edit the surviving documentation from Abraham Lincoln's legal career. Fifteen years later, the University of Illinois Press published a comprehensive electronic edition on three DVD-ROM discs entitled The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition. This publication provides electronic facsimiles of over 96,000 documents from more than 5,100 cases and nearly five hundred non-litigation activities. A database of more than three million pieces of data provides extensive details about each case and document. A custom-designed interface allows users to search for specific cases and documents using more than a dozen indexes, including date, participant, venue, subject, legal action, document type, author/signer, and others. One-paragraph summaries for each case provide an overview of the issues in dispute and Lincoln's role in the case. The result, according to a recent review, is "extraordinary in every sense of that much overused word." For twelve of the project's fifteen years, Dr. Cullom Davis was the director and driving force. He transformed the project from a good idea into a viable operation. Cullom retired as a professor from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 1996, but continued as director of the Lincoln Legal Papers through the publication of the comprehensive electronic edition.