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Emancipation Proclamation Sets Library Free From Financial Worry

April 23, 1989

ASHFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ Public library officials seeking ways to meet a budget crunch didn’t have to look further than their basement, where they found an authentic copy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation hidden in a junk pile.

Trustees of Ashfield’s small public library were meeting in the basement worrying over whether state and federal grants would come through when they stumbled across the copy, said trustee Maurice Isserman, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley.

″Somebody said we could sell those old prints over there in the corner,″ he said. ″I walked over and looked at one and it wasn’t a print, it was a document and I looked down at the bottom and there was Abraham Lincoln’s signature.

″I took it to a local appraiser who introduced me to the world of Lincolnia sales. He told us we had a valuable document and I called up Sothebys,″ Isserman said.

The document was one of 48 copies made in 1864, signed by Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward, experts at Sotheby’s auction house in New York told library trustees.

The document will be auctioned next fall and is expected to fetch at least $70,000, just about equal to what the library needs to finish renovations, Isserman said.

″It was like a providential finding,″ he said.

Library officials believe the document was given to the library years ago by a man named George William Curtis, a friend of Lincoln’s and one of the founders of the Ashfield Library Association.

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