Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Written by Abraham Lincoln. Illustrated by James Daugherty. New introduction by Gabor S. Borritt. Albert Whitman & Company, 2013 (originally published in 1947). 48 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 6 to 18. ISBN: 9780807545508.
This larger than life book was originally published in 1947. It’s been re-released in this 150th anniversary year of the Gettysburg Address. The original book included a forward by James Daugherty, the Gettysburg Address written on a single page, and then 15 two-page spreads. Each spread includes a phrase from the Gettysburg Address as well as a painting that resembles a WPA mural. The new book includes these elements plus an afterword by Gabor Boritt, an emeritus professor of civil war studies at Gettysburg College and Daugherty’s notes on each of his paintings.
The words themselves are, of course, remarkable. They are part of our heritage. The paintings, with their deep, rich, colors are awe-inspiring. I have spent at least an hour looking at them. Each time I go back to a spread, I see things I missed on previous viewings. And I still wonder about what’s included in some of the spreads, even after reading Daugherty’s comments. I can imagine two or three children gathered around a copy of this book trying to puzzle out what’s meant by elements of the paintings.
The paintings are a product of their time. They reference the first and second world wars as well as the Civil War. I am disappointed that the people in the paintings are overwhelmingly white. On the spread where the words “and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” not one single nonwhite person is included in the painting. On the last spread, where the words “and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth,” there are several blacks and even one Asian-looking man. These spreads could be used to discuss how far we’ve come in thinking about race and diversity since 1947.
For all their drawbacks, the paintings are amazing and make the book well worth having in a library, a classroom or a personal collection.