A Leaf from Lincoln’s Sum Book

In an autobiographical sketch written in 1859, Lincoln recalled that, in his youth, “there was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course, when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.” This is one of the earliest surviving Lincoln manuscripts, a leaf from a small math notebook that he assembled in his late teens. It contains several arithmetical and handwriting exercises, as well as the doggerel: Abraham Lincoln / his hand and pen / he will be good but / god knows when.