Yet more Lincoln books on the way

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There comes a point with historic figures where everything important has been published. But the rising wave of new books about Abraham Lincoln makes clear that that point hasn't arrived yet with the 16th president.

At least 50 titles about Lincoln are due out between next month and early 2010, not counting those recently published. The number is probably unprecedented for so short a period, and the range of angles is wide. There are three complete biographies; books of essays and photographs; books about Lincoln as a youth, as president-elect, as a military leader, as a writer, and as an inventor; books about Lincoln and his family, about Lincoln as victim of conspiracy, about Lincoln and his connections with others - his secretaries, his admirals, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, scientist Charles Darwin, even the poet Robert Burns. There are at least seven children's books on the way.

"The interest in Lincoln has been continuous in history," said Brandeis University historian David Hackett Fischer, "and there is a surge right now. Something is going on today."

One reason for the wave is that Feb. 12, 2009, marks the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. But more important to publishers than the date is that the readers are there.

"People are hungry for details about Lincoln," said Alice Mayhew, editorial director of Simon & Schuster, who has edited about a dozen Lincoln books. "He's clearly the greatest hero, with a poignance and a sadness - what he had to endure as president and in his personal life." Beside the man is the dramatic arc of the story. "That this man happened to come along when he did, when he was the one essential person on the planet, is the fascinating thing."

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