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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Photos of Lincoln of all sizes, from carte de visite to imperial, are on display as part of the library's Lincoln collection.

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Lincoln librarian Jane Gastineau holds photos of Willie, left, and Tad Lincoln at the downtown library.

  • Steve Warden | The Journal Gazette A miniature book, in a case made from cherry wood taken from the Lincoln farm in Kentucky, is one of the unique items of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection.

Saturday, June 17, 2017 1:00 am

Library's Lincoln logs

Curators amazed by often small, always powerful treasures

STEVE WARDEN | The Journal Gazette

Deep underground, in the second basement floor of the downtown Allen County Public Library, Jane Gastineau opens a cardboard box the size of a standard greeting card – one of the thousands of Abraham Lincoln archives and memorabilia the library possesses. “This is the large print edition,” she says with a wry smile.

The collections manager of the local Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection brings forth a very small ornate box. Obviously it's not an historic relic, since the box is made of plastic, as is the treasure within. From the side slides two circles. One is a magnifying glass; the other is a microbook that, according to documentation, measures 11/64 inches square. It has 11 pages, with 45 words to the page. It is of the Gettysburg Address.

The type used is .005 inch high, with a stem of .0010 inch, which is about a third the diameter of a human hair.

“Pretty cool,” Gastineau admits.

For a year, from June 2007 until June 2008, Jane Gastineau was the curator of the Lincoln Museum when it was housed in what is now Citizens Square. When Lincoln National Corp. moved its headquarters to Philadelphia, the Lincoln collection – still considered a singular unit – was divided between the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and the downtown library in Fort Wayne.

“The collection is curated in two places,” Gastineau says. “We curate all the paper items because that's what we're equipped to do, and they (Indianapolis) have all the three-dimensional stuff because that's what they're equipped to do. Legally, it's one collection, but it's located in two places.”

Gastineau and aide Emily Rapoza remain active in digitizing the collection and presenting it to visitors. Nevertheless, Gastineau says, “Lincoln at the Library” remains a hidden community gem.

“We try not to make it a secret,” Gastineau says. “There are lots of people who don't know we're here. Last year we participated in Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown. We had four sessions down here, and we were packed. I don't know what more we can do, really.”

While the collection has the familiar Lincoln photographs, newspapers, documents and volumes and volumes of books, it is the little things – quite literally – that has drawn the interest of visitors and those who have seen the library's social media postings.

One of the few non-paper items is a metal, coin-like token of the period from an auctioneer who sold slaves. The token served as the “business card” of the day.

In addition to the microbook were two miniature books from the early 20th century.

“Lincoln, The Literary Genius” is roughly a half-inch square.

“Those are novelties,” Gastineau says. “Some of them are strictly like souvenir items like you'd get at Gettysburg or something.”

Another mini book – this one also with “Lincoln” on the cover, perhaps an inch wide – was boxed in cherry wood taken from the Lincoln farm in Kentucky. It was published in 1929.

“They're pretty amazing,” Gastineau says. “The collection is anything Lincoln, from coloring to comic books to documents – the whole gambit, which is tremendously eclectic.”

There are the framed, side-by-side hand-tinted photographs of Lincoln's sons, Willie and Tad. It could be seen in the 2012 Academy Award-winning film “Lincoln.”

There is the picture locket of the Union generals that folds into a book.

There is the “finger” Bible of the New Testament only, owned by Lincoln's granddaughter Jessie. “Her signature is on the first page and the title page, and it's scanned online,” Gastineau says. “The rest was too fragile to scan.” 

While Gastineau has been the collections manager for over a decade, Rapoza has been with the library for only a few months and is still getting accustomed to working with the artifacts.

“As someone who is very new to the Lincoln collection, it's overwhelming with how interesting and amazing it really is,” Rapoza says. “Everything from every book you could imagine on Lincoln; books that he would have had, volumes he would have read that edition of; signed copies of letters he wrote to people, and people who wrote to him, and personal photographs.

“He's no longer this big, Abraham Lincoln, the president. He is Lincoln, the father, the husband, the person. It's really interesting to get to interact on such a different level and get to know so much of not only him, but his family and everything that would have been surrounding him.”

stwarden@jg.net