Background Image Alternative Text: A small statue of Abraham Lincoln sits on a shelves with volumes of books.
Background Image Alternative Text: A small statue of Abraham Lincoln sits on a shelves with volumes of books.

The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana

Mitchell Memorial Library, 4th Floor
Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address
Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address

The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana represents a lifetime of collecting documents, books, artifacts, ephemera, philately, numismatics, paintings, and statuary related to the life of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States of America, and the Civil War in general. Frank Williams, retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, began his collection as a child and has added to it all his life. In 2017, he and Virginia Williams donated the collection (previously housed at their home in Hope Valley, Rhode Island) to Mississippi State University. The Collection also documents the life and collecting activities of retired Rhode Island Chief Justice and Lincoln scholar Frank Williams and his spouse, teacher and primitive art scholar Virginia Williams. The Williams Collection is accompanied by the Claude Simmonds Collection, which contains clippings of twentieth-century newspaper, magazine, and journal articles that reference Lincoln. In 2017, Frank and Virginia Williams donated their Lincolniana Collection to Mississippi State University.

The late David M. Rich (cataloger at Brown University) and Alfred Calabreta (Curator of Collections at Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea) began cataloging and inventorying the collection in the mid-1980s. Mr. Rich and MSU Libraries faculty and staff have cataloged the book and pamphlet collections to Library of Congress standards. Mr. Calabreta inventoried the objects and ephemera.

Each item has a designated number, located on the verso of documents and paragraphs and the back of statues and framed objects.

Building on the work of Rich and Calabreta, the MSU Libraries will load the records for the Collection into the MSU Libraries online catalog and into OCLC WorldCat making this collection more accessible to researchers around the world. The Collection will also be digitized over the next 2 years and a Finding Aid developed and made available online once the collection has been processed.

About the donors

Rhode Island Chief Justice (Ret.) Frank J. Williams & Virginia Williams, Hope Valley, Rhode Island

Justice Frank Williams

Justice Williams, a Rhode Island native, is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and a long-time jurist in the Rhode Island court system. He is a veteran of the United States Army, having served three years in Germany and one in Vietnam. He is the founding chair of The Lincoln Forum and a long-time president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association. He is a scholar whose books include The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views(with Edna Greene Medford and Harold Holzer, Louisiana State University Press, 2006) and Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leaders (with William D. Pederson, Southern Illinois University Press, 2009). Justice Williams is a member of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and chair of the Rhode Island Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. In 2007, the Pre-law Society of Mississippi State University awarded Justice Williams its prestigious Jurist of the Year Award.

Speeches and Book Discussions with Justice Williams

Virginia Williams

Virginia Williams was born and raised in Texas, and graduated from North Texas State University. She taught overseas for the Department of Defense, and then taught kindergarten in Cranston, Rhode Island, for 29 years. In so doing she acquired an interest in outhouses, about which she lectures all over the country. She serves as Chair of the Museum of Primitive Art in Peacedale, RI, and as Deacon of Dunn’s Corners Presbyterian Church in Westerly, RI.

Related videos

About the Collection Bookplate

Bookplate adapted from engraving of Lincoln by artist Fritz Eichenberg.
Bookplate adapted from engraving of Lincoln by artist Fritz Eichenberg.

This image of Lincoln is taken from an engraving by artist Fritz Eichenberg. Eichenberg was one of the most noted engravers of the 20th century, and his The Art of the Print: Masterpieces, History, and Technique is now a classic. A refugee from Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power, he settled in Rhode Island and headed the Art Department at the University of Rhode Island. He and his wife Toni became great friends with Frank and Virginia Williams, and adapted the engraving into a poster and bookplate for the Williams Collection of Lincolniana.

I did my first Lincoln...in the middle of the second world war, to remind my friends of the great heart of Lincoln who, in the Gettysburg Address, exhorted this country to be magnanimous and bind up the wounds of a war of brother against brother.

Fritz Eichenberg, in a letter to Frank J. Williams, September 26, 1973