October 21, 2008

Author of book about Mary Lincoln to sign copies

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jason Emerson, a freelance historian who discovered letters written by Abraham Lincoln’s wife from the insane asylum to which her son committed her, will sign copies of his resultant book, “The Madness of Mary Lincoln,” from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Carbondale.

Published by the Southern Illinois University Press in 2007, the painstakingly annotated book was named “Book of the Year” by the Illinois State Historical Society.

“It is one of the best-selling books that our press has recently published,” wrote SIU Press Marketing Manager Jennifer L. Fandel in an e-mail.

In addition to the letters from the asylum, Emerson’s book draws upon correspondence from the months and years after Mrs. Lincoln’s release and includes a psychiatric diagnosis and her will. An expert on the Lincoln family -- Emerson is currently at work on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science, math and technology and a biography of Robert T. Lincoln -- the author sets the major events of Mrs. Lincoln’s life against her long struggle with mental and physical illness, interweaving his account with details on the relationship between mother and son.

“American Spectator” magazine calls the book “a model of the historian’s art,” with “a compelling story; a fascinating cast of characters; the thrilling discovery of long-lost documents; shrewd analysis of the people, the period and the sources” and adds that “it’s a pleasure to read.”

For more information on the book and its author, visit http://www.siu.edu/~siupress/books/EmersonTheMadnessofMaryLincoln.html.