The Nicolay Copy of the renowned address is on view free in the Library's Great Hall on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, for Veterans' Day Weekend through Nov. 19, the anniversary of Lincoln's address dedicating the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg Battlefield.
On Nov. 20, the precious document will be moved to the Library's exhibit "The Civil War in America" on the second floor of the Jefferson Building, where it will be displayed through Jan. 4 -- the closing day of this phenomenal, not-to-be-missed exhibit.
The Nicolay Copy is thought to be the first draft of the Gettysburg Address, likely the one Lincoln read at Gettysburg, according to the Library.
"The first page is on formal Executive Mansion stationery and the second page is on a different type of paper, and in pencil, suggesting that Lincoln was not fully satisfied with the final paragraph of the speech and rewrote that passage in Gettysburg," a Library spokeswoman explained.
It's one of only five known manuscript copies handwritten by Abraham Lincoln. The Library of Congress holds another of these, known as the Hay Copy -- displayed March-May this year in "The Civil War in America".
Each copy is named for Lincoln's two secretaries who possessed the respective copy, and who accompanied the President to Gettysburg Battlefield for the address.
The Nicolay Copy is named for Lincoln’s principal secretary, John George Nicolay. The Hay Copy, or second draft, was made by Lincoln soon after he returned from Gettysburg to Washington. It was found among the papers of Lincoln's other secretary, John Hay. Hay’s descendants donated both the Hay and the Nicolay copies to the Library of Congress in 1916.
The three other surviving copies, known as the Everett, Bancroft, and Bliss copies, were made for charitable purposes in the spring of 1864. These copies are now held by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Cornell University Library, and the White House, respectively.
The Gettysburg Address dedicated the national cemetery on that battlefield -- "we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain".
One of the most famous speeches in American history, it's recognized as a literary masterpiece.
In three paragraphs, about 270 words, Lincoln reconfirmed the nation's founding principles, honored the men who had given "the last full measure of devotion" in its defense, and challenged all citizens to renew their commitment to "the proposition that 'all men are created equal.'"
The Library of Congress opened "The Civil War in America" on Nov. 12, 2012, to commemorate the war's 150th anniversary and Veterans' Weekend.
It features more than 200 unique items, many are changed periodically, that reveal the complexity of the Civil War through those who experienced it firsthand. Many of the items had never been seen before by the public. Through diaries, letters, maps, song sheets, newspapers and broadsides, photographs, drawings and unusual artifacts, the exhibition chronicles the sacrifices and accomplishments of people from both the North and the South, whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861-1865.
The rare privilege of seeing these items -- especially the first two versions of the Gettysburg Address -- brings this crucial history vividly to life.
For more info: Nicolay Copy, Gettysburg Address, Library of Congress, www.loc.gov, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. Great Hall, first floor, Jefferson Building, Nov. 8 through Nov. 19. In exhibit "The Civil War in America", second floor, Jefferson Building, Nov. 20 through Jan. 4, 2014.