By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Lincolniana. Yes, it’s a word.
The library I visited Friday is packed with it. Bookshelves line the walls. One hallway has nearly 200 books about Abraham Lincoln.
It’s neither a public library nor a university. It’s Ronald Moody’s south Everett apartment.
His Lincoln books make up just a fraction of his massive collection, which is a history lover’s dream.
Hours could be spent browsing Moody’s tall bookcases devoted to history, locales and literature. He has hundreds of British and American literary and poetry classics — William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, more than enough to fill any literature major’s head.
Alongside his books are small ceramic busts and statuettes, ancient figures to early American presidents. Thick volumes fill bookcase after bookcase, with sections identified by the book jackets and statues.
“The Persian Empire,” “Oxford History of the Classical World,” and Edward Gibbon’s six-volume masterpiece “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” are a few titles among dozens in Moody’s “ancient history” section.
There isn’t one American history section. Whole bookcases and shelves are devoted to the Colonial period, pre-Revolution, the age of Federalism to the Civil War, the Reconstruction era, post-Reconstruction to FDR, and JFK to the present.
Who is Ronald Moody? And what is he doing with all those books?
“I’ve collected them my whole lifetime,” the 71-year-old said Friday. “When I moved here, I counted more than 2,000 books.”
A widower whose wife Sandra died three years ago, Moody sold another 1,000 books when he moved from the house they shared in Marysville. He is retired from the Defense Department. His civil service job, involving contract administration, took him all over the world. He and his wife lived in San Diego, London, Brussels, Saudi Arabia and Seattle. He has two grown sons.
Moody spent his career with the government, but his avocation is history.
That interest was piqued by a course Professor William Hanchett taught at what’s now San Diego State University. Moody is a 1964 graduate of the school, and in 1963 he was there for the commencement speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy.
Hanchett’s yearlong course, covering the Age of (Andrew) Jackson through Reconstruction, hooked Moody on history. Hanchett wrote two of the books in Moody’s Lincoln collection, “The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies” and “Out of the Wilderness: The Life of Abraham Lincoln.”
“I have a fascination for Lincoln,” Moody said. And he’s seen “Lincoln,” the Steven Spielberg movie? “Oh yes, three times,” Moody said. “I think it was pretty accurate.”
Moody likes Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” on which the movie is partly based. He hasn’t read “Killing Lincoln,” a best-selling book by cable TV host Bill O’Reilly. “Popularizers like that go for the dramatic. I recommend Hanchett’s book over that one,” Moody said.
He is also a critic of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg’s books about Lincoln, which Moody said “perpetuated mythology and got away from the reality of politics.”
“Why Lincoln was really great, he was a gifted politician with a moral core,” Moody said. Regarding Lincoln’s views on race and slavery, Moody said, “relatively speaking, he was far ahead of his time.”
The 204th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth is Tuesday, coming in the midst of Oscar season. The film “Lincoln,” which has sparked new interest in the 16th president, is nominated for 12 Academy Awards. The Oscar ceremony is Feb. 24.
Moody hasn’t read all his books, but said he has read “well over half.”
“I’m still working on it,” he said. “Now that I’m retired, I’m trying to catch up.”
He is also working on finding a home for his impressive library. He hopes to give the collection to a university, community college or library. He believes the time has come. “I have sent emails to a couple history professors,” he said.
Moody has been fighting oral cancer since 2009. He has had five surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.
He stays keenly interested in all things Lincoln, and treasures time spent reading a recent and definitive biography, Michael Burlingame’s “Abraham Lincoln: A Life.”
Lots of us aren’t up to his highbrow reading tastes. But who doesn’t agree with a slogan Moody has on a T-shirt?
“Re-elect Lincoln,” it says.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.