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 John Wilkes Booth in the Bollinger Lincoln Collection


From Books at Iowa 2 (April 1965)
Copyright: The University of Iowa


Representing fully forty-eight years of collecting, the thirty-five-hundred volume James Will's Bollinger Lincolniana Collection willed to The University of Iowa Library in 1951 contains one of the finest gatherings of impressions of John Wilkes Booth in existence. The collection's seventeen interesting theatre bills remind the reader of Booth's early successes as an actor: "his remarkable impersonation" of Pescara, the Governor of Granada., in Richard Lalor Shiel's The Apostate at the Boston Museum on February 5, 1863; his "glorious success" in the role of Charles de Moor in Schiller's The Robbers at Mary Provost's Theatre on March 19, 1862; and "the continued rush to witness his efforts" in the role of Macbeth at the Boston Museum on January 26, 1863. By 1865, Booth was a well-known figure in the theatre circles and to theatre-going audiences in and about Washington, but world-wide recognition did not come his way until after his tragic role in the shooting of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre on the evening of April 14, 1865. Judge Bollinger reserved an important place in his collection for "this man who shot his favorite President,"but his personal feelings toward Booth were more perfectly expressed in his habit of keeping the only framed picture of Booth in his house continually facing the wall.

Abott A. Abott's The Assassination and Death of Abraham Lincoln, which occupied an important first place on Judge Bollinger's alphabetically-arranged shelves, was probably the first pamphlet published which carried the assassination story. Abott, quick to realize that "newspapers were impossible to obtain at any price," edited those in his possession and resold the assassination accounts in a twelve-page pamphlet at fifteen cents a copy. His last dated entry was Saturday, April 15, at 9:30 A.M. Sunday, April 16, 1865, was Easter Sunday, and Reverend William M. Blackburn's sermon, The Crime Against the Presidency, represents the scores of sermons preached that day which gave voice to a verbal depiction of John Wilkes Booth amply encrusted with devilish attributes and satanic characteristics. To his friends, family, and fellow actors Booth was a strikingly handsome, black-haired, well-mannered, well-dressed gentleman; to a frightened, bewildered audience at Ford's Theatre he was an insane Brutus in a dark suit brandishing a bloody dagger, leaping across the stage shouting something in a foreign language, sic semper tyrannis; to a horrified nation he was Satan personified.

Henry J. Raymond's The Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States Together with His State Papers, Including His Speeches, Addresses, Messages, Letters, and Proclamations, and the Closing Scenes Connected with His Life and Death, advertised "for immediate publication" in the April 27, 1865, New York Daily Tribune, is representative of the many full-length books and biographies of Lincoln in the next one hundred years which would include an important chapter or two mentioning John Wilkes Booth. Dion Haco's J. Wilkes Booth, the Assassinator of President Lincoln, a novel, however, is probably the first full-length book published after the assassination which included John Wilkes Booth as its main and central character. George Alfred Townsend's The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth, a collection of edited letters first published in the New York World, is very likely the first book-length biography published on John Wilkes Booth. On Wednesday, May 24, 1865, both the Haco book and the Townsend book were advertised in the "New Publications" section of the New York Daily Tribune as being "now ready" for the first time. Booth had been shot at the Garrett Farm in Virginia nearly one month earlier, on the morning of April 26, 1865.

News of the assassination was quick to reach Europe. Judge Bollinger's copy of the Confession de John Wilkes Booth, Assassin du President Abraham Lincoln is believed to be the French edition of a title advertised in the Thursday, June 1, 1865, New York Daily Tribune:

Wilkes Booth's Private Confession of the Murder of Lincoln . . . This confession was given by the assassin to a confederate friend, who assisted in his concealment, and who escaped to New York after the capture of Booth by the officers of justice, arriving at Liverpool on Saturday last, on his way to Russia ... now being published in pamphlet form, price 2d., by the Newsagents' Company, 147 Fleet-Street, London.

The Library of Congress designates this book as a "spurious account," but its importance lies in its depiction of what Europeans were reading about the assassination other than in their daily newspapers.

To admit to any association whatever with John Wilkes Booth in those days and months which followed Good Friday, April 14, 1865, was to run the grave risk of being arrested, imprisoned, or called into court to testify in the trial of Booth's accomplices: Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, George A. Atzerodt, Lewis Payne, Samuel Arnold, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangler, and Michael O'Laughlin. Two important books were published from the proceedings of this conspiracy trial which began in May and ended in July: Benn Pitman's The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators, and Benjamin Perley Poore's The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President, and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of Its Principal Officers. Mrs. Mary E. Surratt, David E. Herold, George A. Atzerodt, and Lewis Payne were hanged on July 7, 1865. Samuel Arnold, Samuel A. Mudd, Edward Spangler, and,Michael O'Laughlin were sentenced to hard labor in the military prison at Dry Tortugas, Florida.

If the immediate excitement surrounding the assassination, the capture of Booth, and the trial of the conspirators quieted down after July 7, 1865, the stream of books, pamphlets, and articles which was to follow in the next hundred years had only begun. The chronological bibliography which follows lists many of the books in which Booth receives important mention or plays a central role. As Henry J. Raymond's The Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln is representative of the many later biographies of Lincoln in which John Wilkes Booth received important mention, J. E. Buckingham's Reminiscences and Souvenirs of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln is representative of the titles written by persons present in Ford's Theatre the evening of April 14, 1865. Nettie Mudd's The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd is representative of the biographies and sketches written about Booth's accomplices and their associations with Booth in the murder of the President, and W. J. Ferguson's I Saw Booth Shoot Lincoln is representative of the books written by and about theatre people who had had occasion to act in roles opposite John WilkesBooth or had developed close friendships with him. Inaccurate reports, erroneous affidavits, journalistic ghosts, and wild imaginings have shrouded in secrecy and intrigue what really happened at Ford's Theatre the evening of April 14, 1865, in Garrett's barn the morning of April 26, 1865, and in the days and hours intervening. Many of the myths and mysteries still remain.


Abbott, Abbott A. [sic]. The Assassination and Death of Abraham Lincoln,President of the United States of America, at Washington, on the 14th of April, 1865. Full particulars with a short account of his life. New York. American News Company, 1865.

Abott, Abott A. The Assassination and Death of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, at Washington, on the 14th of April 1865. New York: American News Company, 1865.

Blackburn, William M. The Crime Against the Presidency. A sermon, delivered Sunday, April 16, 1865, in the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Trenton, N.J.: Murphy and Bechtel, 1865.

Confession de John Wilkes Booth, Assassin du President Abraham Lincoln;publice d'apres le manuscript original. Traduit de I'anglais. Paris: Chez Tous Les Libraires, 1865.

Haco, Dion. J. Wilkes Booth, the Assassinator of President Lincoln. (Dawley's New War Novels, No. 9) New York: T. R. Dawley, 1865.

Pitman, Benn (comp.) The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators David E. Herold, Mary E. Surratt, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, Edward Spangler, Samuel A. Mudd, Samuel Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin ... New York: Moore, Wilstach, and Baldwin, 1865.

Poore, Benjamin Ferley (ed.). The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President, and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of Its Principal Officers. 3 vols. Boston: J. E. Tilton and Company, 1865-1866.

Raymond, Henry J. The Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages, letters, and proclamations, and the closing scenes connected with his life and death. New York: Derby and Miller, 1865.

Townsend, George Alfred. The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth, with a full sketch of the conspiracy of which he was the leader, and the pursuit, trial and execution of his accomplices. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865.


Dye, John Smith. History of the Plots and Crimes of the Great Conspiracy. to Overthrow Liberty in America. New York: John Smith Dye, 1866.

The Great Conspiracy. A book of absorbing interest Startling developments. Eminent persons implicated. Full secret of the assassination plot. John H. Surratt and his mother. With biographical sketches of J. B. Booth and John Wilkes, and the life and extraordinary adventures of John H. Surratt, the conspirator. Philadelphia: Barclay and Company, 1866.

Haco, Dion (ed.). The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt, the Conspirator. New York: Frederic A. Brady, 1866.

Jefferson Davis, and His Complicity in the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, and Where the Traitor Shall Be Tried for Treason. Philadelphia: Sherman and Company, 1866.


Boyd, Andrew (comp.). A Memorial Lincoln Bibliography: being an account of books, eulogies, sermons, portraits, engravings, medals, etc., published upon Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States, assassinated Good Friday, April 14, 1865; comprising a collection in the possession of the compiler, Andrew Boyd. Albany, N.Y.: Andrew Boyd,1870.


Chiniquy, Charles. Fifty Years in the Church of Rome. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1886.

Townsend, George Alfred. Katy of Catoctin or the chain-breakers. A national romance. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1886.


Harris, T. M. Assassination of Lincoln. A history of the great conspiracy trial of the conspirators by a military commission and a review of the trial of John H. Surratt. Boston: American Citizen Company, 1892.


Burr, W. H. The Murder of Abraham Lincoln Planned and Executed by Jesuit Priests. Indianapolis: The Ironclad Age, 1893.

Jones, Thomas A. J. Wilkes Booth. An account of his sojourn in southern Maryland after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, his passage across the Potomac, and his death in Virginia. Chicago: Laird and Lee, 1893.


Buckin ham, J. E., Sr. Reminiscences and Souvenirs of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Washington: Press of Rufus H. Darby, 1894.


Oldroyd, Osborn H. The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Flight, pursuit, capture, and punishment of the conspirators. Washington, D.C.: 0. H. Oldroyd, 1901.


Fish, Daniel (comp.) Lincoln Bibliography. A list of books and pamphlets relating to Abraham Lincohi compiled by Daniel Fish of the Minnesota Bar. New York: Francis D. Tandy Company, 1906.

Mudd, Nettie (ed.). The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. Containing his letters from Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas Island, where he was ixnprisoned four years for alleged complicity in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln with statements of Mrs. Samuel A. Mudd, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, and Edward Spangler regarding the assassination and the argument of General Ewing on the question of the jurisdiction of the military commission, and on the law and facts of the case. Also "diary" of John Wilkes Booth. New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906.


Bates, Finis L. The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth or the first true account of Lincoln's assassination containing a complete confession by Booth many years after the crime. Giving in full details the plans, plot and intrigue of the conspirators, and the treachery of Andrew Johnson, then Vice-President of the United States. Written for the correction of history by Finis L. Bates. Memphis, Tenn.: The Historical Publishing Company, 1907.


DeWitt, David Miller. The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Its Expiation. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1909.


Johnson, Byron Berkeley. Abraham Lincoln and Boston Corbett with personal recollections of each John Wilkes Booth and Jefferson Davis A true story of their capture. Waltham, Mass.: Byron Berkeley Johnson, 1914.


Coggeshall, E. W. The Assassination of Lincoln. Chicago: Walter M. Hill, 1920.


Campbell, W. P. The Escape and Wanderings of J. Wilkes Booth until Ending of the Trail by Suicide in Oklahoma. The way of the transgressor is hard. (Travelers Series, No. 7) Oklahoma City: W. P. Campbell, 1922.

Chiniquy, Charles. Assassination of Lincoln. Milan, Ill.: The Rail Splitter Press, [ca. 1922?]


McCarty, Burke. The Suppressed Truth about the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia, Pa.: Burke McCarty, 1924.


Mahoney, Ella V. Sketches of Tudor Hall and the Booth Family. Belair,Md.: Tudor Hall, 1925.


Lewis, Lloyd. Myths after Lincoln. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company,1929.

Wilson, Francis. John Wilkes Booth. Fact and fiction of Lincoln's assassination. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929.


Ferguson, W. J. I Saw Booth Shoot Lincoln. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930.


Taft, Charles Sabin. Abraham Lincoln's Last Hours. From the note-book of Charles Sabin Taft, M.D. An Army surgeon present at the assassination, death, and autopsy. Chicago: Black Cat Press, 1934.


Eisenschinil, Otto. Why Was Lincoln Murdered? Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1937. (Iowa possesses the fifteen boxes of Eisenschiml's manuscripts and research materials used in the preparation of this book.)

Forrester, Izola. This One Mad Act ... The unknown story of John Wilkes Booth and his family by his granddaughter Izola Forrester. Boston: Hale, Cushman and Fhnt, 1937.


Clarke, Asia Booth. The Unlocked Book. A memoir of John Wilkes Booth by his sister Asia Booth Clarke. New York: C. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938.


Stern, Philip Van Doren. The Man Who Killed Lincoln. The story of John Wilkes Booth and his part in the assassination. New York: The Literary Guild of America, Inc., 1939. Bibliography, 407-408.


Baker, Ray Stannard. The Capture, Death and Burial of J. Wilkes Booth. Reproduced from McClure's Magazine May 1897. Chicago: The Poor Richard Press, 1940.

Bryan, George S. The Great American Myth. New York: Carrick and Evans, Inc., 1940. Bibliography, 396-407.

Eisenschiml, Otto. In the Shadow of Lincoln's Death. New York: Wilfred Funk, Inc., 1940.

Kimmel, Stanley. The Mad Booths of Maryland. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1940.


Arnold, Samuel Bland. Defence and Prison Experiences of a Lincoln Conspirator. Statements and autobiographical notes. (Heartman's Historical Series, No. 66) Hattiesburg, Miss.: The Book Farm, 1943.

Campbell, Helen Jones. The Case of Mrs. Surratt. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1943.

Eisenschiml, Otto. The Case of A. L----, Aged 56. Some curious medical aspects of Lincoln's death and other studies. Chicago: Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, 1943.

Monaghan, James (comp.). . . . Lincoln Bibliography, 1839-1939 . . . Compiled by Jay Monaghan With a foreword by James G. Randall... 2 vols. (Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 31-32. Bibliographical series, vol. 4-5) Springfield, M.: Illinois State Historical Library, 1943-1945.


Kelly, Edward James. The Crime at Ford's Theater. The picture story of America's greatest tragedy the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Alexandria, Va.: Action Publications, 1944.

Woods, Rufus. The Weirdest Story in American History. The escape of John Wilkes Booth. Wenatchee, Wash.: Rufus Woods, 1944.


Miller, Ernest C. John Wilkes Booth -- Oilman. A previously unknown part of the assassin's life now told for the first time from newly discovered material. New York: The Exposition Press, 1947.


Bishop, Jim. The Day Lincoln Was Shot. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1955. Bibliography, 303-04.


Gray, Clayton, Conspiracy in Canada. Montreal: LAtelier, 1957. Bibliography, 133-140.


Reuter, William L. The King Can Do No Wrong. New York: Pageant Press, Inc., 1958.


Harris, Thomas M. Rome's Responsibility for the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Los Angeles, Calif.: Heritage Manor, Inc., 1960.


Stacton, David. The Judges of the Secret Court. New York: Pantheon Books, 1961.


Eisenschiml, Otto. 0. E. Historian Without an Armchair. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1963.

McLoughlin, Emmett. An Inquiry into the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1963.


Higdon, Hal. The Union vs. Dr. Mudd. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1964. Bibliography, 221-222.