Paper Matters: Preserving Cornell’s Gettysburg Address (part 4)

The author of this post, Michele Hamill, is a conservation expert for Cornell University Library. She and her department have helped preserve our copy of the Gettysburg Address, and she will be writing a series of posts for this blog, providing an insider’s view of the history and challenges related to this task.

Read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of her series.

When we left off last time, we were about to describe where President Lincoln got the paper on which he wrote the Gettysburg Address.

At first, it was a bit of a mystery: Our paper is not watermarked, which can help identify a papermaker, but it is embossed in the upper corner near the start of the Address. An embossment is a stamped impression into the paper, and it has no color.

This illustration shows a hand tool used to emboss stationery. Courtesy Cathleen A. Baker.

Try as we might, we could not discern the full design of our embossment with the naked eye or magnification.President Lincoln folded Cornell’s copy of Gettysburg Address so that it would fit into an envelope, and someone in the past most likely flattened our document to reduce those fold lines. Flattening the fold lines also flattened the embossment, making it harder to identify. Rhea Garen, Cornell’s expert photographer in Digital Consulting and Production Services, recently reimaged our embossment in high resolution using special lighting techniques.

The embossment imaged with high resolution and special lighting techniques is clearer and stands in more relief.

With this new improved image of the embossment, the hunt began to identify the embossment. With a fortuitous recommendation from George Barnum, the curator at the Government Printing Office in Washington D.C., we connected with Michelle Krowl, Civil War and Reconstruction specialist in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Michelle conducted some extraordinary research on our behalf and found a matching embossment in their collections: Philp & Solomons, Washington, D.C.!

This image was provided by Michelle Krowl, who was using her iPhone in the stacks of the Library of Congress. Its design matches ours. (Philp & Solomon embossment, T. D. Eliot to Lincoln, 2-1-1864, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress).

At long last, we now know that the paper for our Address was supplied by Philp & Solomons of Washington, D.C., noted book publishers and stationers. Franklin Philp (an odd spelling, but correct) and Adolphus Solomons also managed a book store and a photographic gallery. They were known to have government printing contracts. Later in his career, Adolphus Solomons co-founded the American Red Cross with Clara Barton in 1881.

Newspaper ad for Philp & Solomons in the Evening Star, Washington, D.C., June 26, 1860.

Treasury Department records show payments made to Philp & Solomons, authorized by John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s private secretaries. In 1861, the Executive Mansion purchased a ream of writing paper from Philp & Solomons for $3.25.

Notifications for bids for supplying the Department of the Interior, the House of Representatives, and the War Department ran frequently in newspapers of the time. Philp & Solomons, among other stationers in Washington, D.C., fulfilled these bids. (Evening Star, Washington D.C., June 14, 1860.)

Philp & Solomons’ embossment on our Address indicates that they supplied the paper, but they didn’t make the paper. We may never know the exact mill where it was made. But, with the identification of the embossment, we are one step closer to knowing all we can about Cornell Library’s Gettysburg Address.

Interestingly, the three copies made after President Lincoln delivered the Address (the Cornell copy, the copy at the White House, and the copy in Illinois) all seem to have a Philp & Solomons embossment, and we credit Philp & Solomons for supplying the Executive Mansion and President Lincoln with the right stuff.

Philp & Solomons have another important Cornell connection: They were the publishers for famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner. The 7 millionth volume to come to Cornell University Library, Garner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War, bears their imprint.

Facsimile images from this astounding photograph album, showing the Gettysburg battlefield, are on display now as part of the Remembering Lincoln at Gettysburg exhibit, running through Dec. 20.

Next up… what did insects have to do with Lincoln’s ink?

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