Emancipation Proclamation Goes on Public View
ITHACA, N.Y. (Feb. 5, 2013) — To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Cornell University Library is publicly displaying its original copy, which holds a bit of little-known history.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Library’s copy of the historic document, which was set to be entered into the official record — but the president noticed a mistake made by the clerk transcribing the document. A new copy was prepared and signed later in the day, but this original version with the clerical error had already been leaked and circulated in several newspapers.
The original document will be part of the Library’s “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation at 150” exhibition, and it will be on display from Feb. 11 to Feb. 18 in the Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC), Kroch Library, level 2B.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12 (Lincoln’s birthday) and Monday, Feb. 18 (President’s Day), RMC will host guided tours of the Emancipation Proclamation exhibition between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
RMC will also host talks about Cornell’s extraordinary Lincoln collections on Monday, Feb. 18 at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and guided tours of the “Wardrobes & Rabbit Holes: A Dark History of Children’s Literature” exhibition at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
To protect the document, the original artifact will only be on public display from Feb. 11 to Feb. 18, but a facsimile copy will be on display for the rest of the exhibition, running now through March 30.
Other items on display will include a print copy of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, several printed versions of the final document, Civil War era engravings, contemporary issues of “Harper’s Weekly” and “Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,” broadsides and pamphlets from the Library’s slavery and anti-slavery collections and one of A. D. White’s Rebellion Miscellany scrapbooks.
The exhibition is the first of many Lincoln-related events planned over the next year that will feature the Library’s extensive collections from his era.
The image is a rare engraving by J.W. Watte, "Reading the Emancipation Proclamation," after a drawing by H.W. Herrick (1864). It is is one of the few engravings to depict the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by those who had just been freed by it. The scene shows a Union soldier reading Lincoln's order aloud to an ecstatic gathering of slaves.