SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today announced that 33 law books owned by Abraham Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, have been donated to the Illinois State Historical Library by Carolyn Oxtoby, who rehabilitates 19th century commercial buildings in downtown Springfield, Illinois.
Nearly all of the books have inscriptions by Herndon, and one book has a fragment of a letter to Herndon from an unknown person asking Herndon to send him some of Lincoln’s legal briefs. Twenty-nine of the donated books were used in the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, while four of the books date from the 1870s.
The books are valuable artifacts from Lincoln’s 25-year law practice. Lincoln and Herndon often used Illinois Supreme Court opinions and statutes in their arguments before judges and probably would have thumbed through these books numerous times to find supporting evidence for their clients and cases.
Herndon often stayed in Springfield and practiced in neighboring counties while Lincoln traveled for several months practicing law on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Lincoln’s legal contemporaries often portrayed Herndon as Lincoln’s researcher. While Lincoln did a substantial part of his own research, these donated books are further evidence of Herndon’s management of the law office.
The donation more than doubles the Lincoln-Herndon law book holdings of the Historical Library’s Henry Horner Lincoln Collection.
Herndon was Lincoln’s third, and last, legal partner. Their place of business, open to the public as the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site in Springfield, is the only remaining building where Lincoln maintained working law offices.