Software may help in search for new Lincoln documents

Abraham Lincoln researchers are joining forces with computer science and linguistics expert Patrick Juola to determine the authorship of anonymous newspaper articles possibly penned by a young Lincoln, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Mr. Juola has spent the past five years developing J Gaap, or Java Graphical Authorship Attribution Program. The software program identifies patterns in written documents — such as syntax use or repetition of certain words — and can use the information it gains from documents with known authors to determine the authorship of other documents.

Researchers know that Lincoln wrote anonymous contributions to the Sangamo Journal, a newspaper published weekly in Springfield, said Daniel W. Stowell, director and editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project. The project exists to identify and publish all documents written by or to Lincoln.

But the researchers know that other people also wrote anonymous letters to the paper during the same time period, and there were also readers, including Lincoln, who wrote using pseudonyms.

“The challenge was trying to figure out a systematic way and a more scientific way of determining what Lincoln wrote and what he didn’t,” Mr. Stowell said.

To meet that challenge, he turned to Mr. Juola and his software program.

Mr. Stowell’s team in Springfield has begun compiling and digitizing about 1,000 articles and letters they found in 350 to 400 issues of the Sangamo Journal. They will soon send the digitized newspaper articles to Duquesne, where Mr. Juola’s software will begin to analyze the documents and sort them into three groups: written by Lincoln, not written by Lincoln and authorship unclear.

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