November 20th marks the 149th anniversary of the first printing of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19, 1863. According to leading document and artifact expert Seth Kaller, "Lincoln’s address has endured as a supreme distillation of American values. It has become a compelling reminder of the sacrifices required to achieve and maintain freedom for all Americans, not only for the slaves but also for the free.”
Many Americans believe Lincoln wrote the speech on the back of an envelope while riding the train to Gettysburg. However, according to Kaller, "that is a charming piece of fiction that originated in a 1906 book."
When Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address only a small number of Americans heard his brief remarks, including at least 27 reporters. The Associated Press version of Lincoln’s speech was the most widely distributed first-day printing of the text. The New York Herald received the AP text by telegraph and published it on November 20th, as did the New York Times, New York World, and hundreds of smaller papers across the country. The AP version, with slight punctuation and capitalization variants, is easily identifiable by the use of the phrase “to the refinished work” instead of the more appropriate “to the unfinished work.” Moreover, the AP version omitted the word “poor” in the line “The brave men living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our [poor] power to add or detract” even though multiple eyewitnesses recorded it and it was present in both of Lincoln’s manuscript drafts. In addition, the phrase “We are met to dedicate” is “We have come to dedicate” in Lincoln’s written copies. Ultimately, the speed with which first-day printings were produced—along with the vagaries of nineteenth-century communications and typesetting—produced many slightly unique versions of Lincoln’s words.
Lincoln penned three copies for charitable purposes the following year, and he reportedly referenced the AP report when making those copies. What has come down as the standard version of the Address was compiled from Lincoln’s manuscripts, reports of what he spoke at the time, and later revisions made by Lincoln himself, who kept tinkering with the text. His fifth version, written in 1864, is now considered the authoritative text.
So, what were Lincoln's exact words and how many words were there? A total of 272, more or less, depending upon how you count. For example, is "can not," one or two words? Was "under God" included originally or not? An episode of the popular TV show West Wing wrongly indicated that there were 286 words, a number which came from a very impeachable source. The authoritative text can be read here (http://www.sethkaller.com/item/63-The-Gettysburg-Address).
Were the words "under God" included in the speech? Lincoln's first two drafts written before the speech did not include those words, but several reporters on the scene heard it and included it in their transcripts. According to Kaller, "It is safe to conclude that Lincoln extemporaneously added 'under God'."
As for how most people learned about the speech, reporters on the scene took shorthand and telegraphed the speech to their editors. In the following days and weeks, people were able to read the text throughout the country. In the end the Associated Press report was the most widespread and widely read.
Seth Kaller, Inc. has available a score of items relating to both the battle and the Address including:
One of the first books published on the pivotal battle. It was written by Pennsylvania (now Gettysburg) College professor Michael Jacobs, one of only seven professors who remained at the college during the battle. “We every where saw the most striking evidences of the severity of that terrible struggle. . . . in the 3000 noble horses whose carcasses which met the eye in every direction; & especially in the 8 to 9000 human bodies dead & mangled, with eyes staring horribly, strewed over the ground; & man of the more than 20,000 wounded of both armies yet remaining in the fields” #22586 $550
This newspaper is one of the rare first day printings published the day after the event. The issue includes Lincoln’s Address on page 2, Edward Everett’s entire 2 hour speech, and a report on the ceremonies. The publisher, John Forney, was so close to the administration he was called “Lincoln’s Dog.” His reporter’s transcription of the speech is unique, and in some ways more accurate than the widely disseminated Associated Press version. #22558 $12,500
Seth Kaller also has several other first day or early newspaper printings of the speech
on their website at http://www.sethkaller.com. Given that the very rare first pamphlet printing, dated November 22, has sold for approx $650,000, and that fine copies of the first book printing have sold for $35,000 - $45,000, the more immediate newspaper printings seem undervalued.
Chicagoans commemorated Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday by casting this plaque with the full text of the Gettysburg Address. #22401 $1,900
A front-page printing of President Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixby on her family’s sacrifice for the Republic. “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. . . . I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
The War of the Rebellion: Gettysburg Official Records, devoted to the Battle of Gettysburg. 3 volumes, with Union General John M. Schofield's stamp in the first.
Curiously, the leading illustrated newspaper of the day, Harper’s Weekly, never did publish the Address or illustrate the ceremony. This Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, published in far smaller quantities than Harper’s, is quite scarce, and provides the best very early visual record of the event. #22629.01 $2,850
More items can be found here. http://bit.ly/LincolnGettysburgAddress and here http://www.sethkaller.com/freedomdocuments/gettysburg-address/ or you can read more about the Gettysburg Address on the company's blog at Rich In History.
Seth Kaller is a leading expert in acquiring, authenticating, and appraising American historic documents and artifacts. Kaller has built museum-quality collections for individuals and institutions, as well as legacy collections for philanthropists to donate. He has handled important manuscripts and documents relating to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution; leaves from George Washington’s draft of his inaugural address; Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” manuscript and signed copies of the Thirteenth Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation; and Robert E. Lee’s farewell to his troops. More information can be found at http://www.sethkaller.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 914-289-1776.