Is that you, Mr. Lincoln?
use new computer technology to help identify early, anonymous
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[May 11, 2012]
-- "With malice toward none, with charity for all" apparently
did not count when Abraham Lincoln wrote scathing, anonymous
articles for newspapers during his days as an Illinois legislator.
Now, a grant will help a nationally renowned project use new
computer technology to identify those early, anonymous Lincoln
writings that so far have been difficult to link to the future
The Office of Digital Humanities of the National Endowment for the
Humanities has provided a $50,000 grant to the Papers of Abraham
Lincoln to apply sophisticated computer techniques to questions
about Lincoln's early political writings. The project will work with
Dr. Patrick Juola, professor of computer science at Duquesne
University in Pittsburgh, Pa., to use his stylometric computer
programs to authenticate early Lincoln writings in the Sangamo
Journal during the years he served in the Illinois Legislature
"This project has the potential to expand
substantially our knowledge of a previously little-known part of
Lincoln's life -- the letters and editorials he wrote for the
newspaper, either anonymously or under a pseudonym," said Daniel W.
Stowell, director and editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.
The words of the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural steadied
a nation consumed by the Civil War and have since encouraged
countless millions around the globe in their struggles for democracy
and equality. However, Abraham Lincoln did not always write to
inspire. Both his contemporaries and subsequent historians have
suggested that as a young Illinois legislator, Lincoln attacked
political opponents by writing vicious, and oftentimes libelous,
newspaper articles and published them anonymously or with a
pseudonym. Thus far, however, no historian has conducted a
systematic search of relevant newspapers or developed a way to
identify which articles Lincoln authored.
Using a computer program to authenticate the works of a key
historical figure is a huge leap into a new interdisciplinary world
for traditional historians, according to Juola. "A traditional
historian is much more at home in an archive full of paper than in a
lab of Java code," he said. "This new approach represents a change
in scholarship if a computerized program becomes an acceptable
method of authentication."
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Dr. Samuel P. Wheeler, a research associate with the Papers of
Abraham Lincoln, who has previously studied Lincoln's anonymous
poetry, will lead the team in Springfield. Juola, who has developed
software to attribute authorship to a specific individual, based on
many aspects of the individual's writing style, will apply those
tests to Lincoln's early political writings.
The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing
project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating
and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during
his lifetime (1809-1865). The project is administered through the
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and is co-sponsored
by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of
Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.
[Text from file received from
the Illinois Historic