Ronald C. White, a prominent Lincoln biographer who also wrote a volume on the second inaugural address, said the Bible given to Miner was a significant discovery. “This is one more marker or signpost that Lincoln is on a journey, and that journey will not finally come out until the second inaugural,” Mr. White said.
The Bible remained in Miner’s family through the years. Sandra Wolcott Willingham, Miner’s great-great-granddaughter, said her grandparents displayed it on a Victorian tall table in the corner of the sitting room in their house in Oyster Bay, N.Y.
“It was almost like wallpaper — it was just there,” she said. “But it also had an aura about it that was special because it was elevated. It wasn’t just on the coffee table. It wasn’t in the bookcase. My grandmother and grandfather obviously very much loved it and appreciated it. But it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, look at us, we have Lincoln’s Bible.’”
In 1994, the Bible was left to Ms. Willingham’s son, William Prescott Wolcott Jr., who works in private wealth management for Morgan Stanley in San Francisco. Ms. Willingham, who lives in a small mining town in Idaho, recalled being sent the Bible and then wrapping it in a beach towel to drive it to her son’s house in California, where it was displayed on a mantel.
During a cross-country trip last year, Ms. Willingham and her husband stopped in Springfield and visited Lincoln’s home. Shown the lot across the street where her relatives’ house once stood, they decided to visit the museum, which is run by the Illinois state government, and told Ian Hunt, the head of acquisitions, about the family keepsake.
When the family agreed to donate it, Mr. Lowe and Mr. Hunt flew to San Francisco to authenticate it. “They came in with their white gloves on, and they’re looking at it,” Ms. Willingham recalled. “‘Is this the real thing guys?’ They were speechless. ‘Yeah, it is the real thing.’”
When it was removed from the mantelpiece, it was stuck at first, but Mr. Lowe said the Bible was in “really good shape.” When they took it to the airport to return to Illinois, Mr. Lowe said, a representative from United Airlines who helped them through security grew emotional at seeing it. “She completely broke down crying,” he said.