Watch CBSN Live

Obama To Be Sworn In On Lincoln Bible

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced this morning that Barack Obama will be sworn into office on the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861.

(Library of Congress )
Mr. Obama has spoken often of his admiration for Lincoln, telling 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft that the former president possessed "a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful." (You can watch that interview here.)

The president-elect announced his candidacy at the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln delivered the "House Divided" speech, and has not been shy about drawing comparisons to the man: "Not only is Lincoln one of my political heroes, but like Lincoln, I served for seven years in Springfield in the state Senate, and it's there I learned how to legislate, it's there that I developed many of my political ideas," Mr. Obama said.

Click Here For All Of's Special Inauguration Coverage

The Bible, part of the Library of Congress' collections, is going on display right now, for one hour, in the Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building, and will go back on display in February. It "is bound in burgundy velvet with a gold-washed white metal rim around the three outside edges of both covers," the release notes. "All its edges are heavily gilded. In the center of the top cover is a shield of gold wash over white metal with the words 'Holy Bible' chased into it. The book is 15 cm long, 10 cm wide, and 4.5 cm deep when closed." It was published in 1853.

(Library of Congress )
"President-elect Obama is deeply honored that the Library of Congress has made the Lincoln Bible available for use during his swearing-in," Presidential Inaugural Committee Executive Director Emmett Beliveau said. "The President-elect is committed to holding an Inauguration that celebrates America's unity, and the use of this historic Bible will provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage."

The Constitution does not mandate that presidents be sworn in on a Bible, though doing so has become a tradition. A bit more background from the release below.

The Bible was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln's swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861. The Lincoln family Bible, which is also in the Library of Congress's collection, was unavailable for the ceremony because it was packed away with the First Family's belongings, still en route from Springfield, IL, to their new home at the White House...

Annotated in the back of the volume, along with the Seal of the Supreme Court, is the following: "I, William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the said court do hereby certify that the preceding copy of the Holy Bible is that upon which the Honble. R. B. Taney, Chief Justice of the said Court, administered to His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, the oath of office as President of the United States ..."

The Lincoln Inaugural Bible will be on display at the Library of Congress February 12th to May 9th, 2009, as part of an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition." The exhibit will then travel to five other American cities. The Library is planning several other events and programming in commemoration of the bicentennial of the birth of the nation's 16th president, who was born on February 12th, 1809.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue