The Emancipation Proclamation, with calligraphic portrait of Abraham Lincoln

William H. Pratt (American, active 1860s), Printer Augustus Hageboeck (American, active 1861–1880s)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Prints and Drawings



Before the invention of the typewriter, beautiful handwriting was not just an elegant attainment, it was a marketable skill. In nineteenth-century America, there could be real money in providing examples of virtuosic penwork, both as objects in their own right and as advertisements to potential students. This extraordinary calligraphic portrait of Abraham Lincoln may be the most famous of all such pieces. But look closely, for this is a verbal portrait of Lincoln as well as a visual one. The president’s visage is comprised of the text of the Emancipation Proclamation, the letters and words swelling and thinning to create a convincing portrait of the man. Here, Lincoln literally embodies his greatest achievement: the freeing of the slaves.


"Ent. accdng. to act of Congress in the year 1865 by W.H. Pratt in the clerk's office of the Dist. Court of the U.S. for the Dist. of Iowa."


Before 1972, owned by Myrtle Rice Brawn (Middleboro, MA); September 14, 1972, presented by Myrtle Rice Brawn to the "Ernest David Howes, Jr., family in deep appreciation for the friendship Ernest D. and Dorothy C. Howes gave to me"; 2013, given by E. David Howes, Jr., and Peggy Lou Howes (Sandwich, MA) to the MFA. (Accession Date June 26, 2013)

Credit Line

Gift of E. David Howes, Jr. and Peggy Lou Howes in memory of Ernest and Dorothy Howes