January - March 2002 Volume 2 Number 1
F riends of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln may wonder why the project seeks to preserve and deliver color
images of manuscript material. After all, the value of these manuscripts is in the words themselves, right?
There are three fundamental reasons why the Papers of Abraham Lincoln has chosen to capture document
images on color microfilm and to deliver color
rather than grayscale digital images in the
comprehensive electronic edition of the Papers of
First, and most importantly, color enhances
the accuracy of the editorial process. Color improves
the contrast and readability of manuscript materials.
Capturing the color of the aged paper and the ink
makes strikeouts easier to read and provides
important clues about authorship, how the document
was created, and the distinctions between purposeful
pen marks and stray marks or other blemishes.
Consider the document at left. Abraham Lincoln
wrote all but ten words on this page of an 1842 bill
of exceptions. Can you tell which ten? (When you
have picked them out, see page 2 for the answers.)
Second, color preserves colorful attributes of
manuscript materials themselves, from the blue
paper common for letters written in Lincoln’s time
(which has come to be known as “Lincoln blue” by
manuscript collectors) to color inks, stamps, and
even color letterhead and patriotic envelopes and
Third, color enhances the aesthetic
connection between the reader and the original
documents. Users of computer resources of all types
increasingly expect and demand high-quality color
images, and the advent of sharper monitors and low-cost
color printers makes such images a requirement
for a modern edition.