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For years, when Lincoln's letters were both plentiful and affordable, his legal papers were largely ignored by all but a handful of collectors. Since then, increasing attention has been focussed on Lincoln's practice of the law and the written records are being systematically compiled and studied by the staff of the Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, based in Springfield, Illinois. The forthcoming publication of Lincoln's select cases in print and on CD-ROM, under the editorship of Cullom Davis, promise to illuminate many aspects of the crucial early stages of Lincoln's preparation for the presidency. The Goldsborough Collection features good legals dating from all three of Lincoln's law partnerships. Some have been off the market since their purchase in the Barrett sale in 1952. These still offer extensive smaples of the most famous American lawyer's handwriting, for relatively modest prices.

LINCOLN, ABRAHAM, President. Autograph manuscript signed ("Stuart & Lincoln"), filing a complaint on behalf of the plaintiff, Robert W. Keys, CONTAINING ABOUT 385 WORDS, Tazewell County, Illinois, "April Term," 1838. 1 1/4 pages, folio, 320 x 200mm. (13 x 7 3/4 in.), two minor tears at horizontal fold, otherwise in very good condition.


A relatively uncommon early Lincoln legal, dating from his first law partnership, established in 1836 with John T. Stuart, with whom he had served during the Black Hawk War. It was amicably dissolved in April 1841. The present complaint concerns a debt owed to the plaintiff, Robert W. Keys, by the defendants, David Bailey, Nathaniel Bailey and Samuel G. Bailey: "...On...[20 March...1837...the firm of David Bailey & Co.]...at Pekin...made their certain promissory note in writing...and thereby then and there promised to pay one day after the date thereof to the said plaintiff (by the name of R.W. Keys) or order the sum of [$1,135.56] for value received, and then and there deliver the said promissory note to the said plaintiff; by means whereof and by force of the statute in such case made and provided, the said defendants then and there became libel...Yet the said defendants (although often requested so to do) have not as yet paid to the said plaintiff the said sum of money in the said promissory note specified; but so to do have hereto and wholly neglected and refused, and still do neglect and refuse -- To the damage of the said plaintiff of the sum of [$2,000], and therefore he brings his suit..."

Documents from Lincoln's first law firm are relatively rare; the present is dated one year before an example from the Doheny Library (sale Christie's, 21 February 1989, lot 2106, $4200). Not in Collected Works and apparently unpublished.

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