This collection of Abraham Lincoln-related materials was given to Milner Library in 1979 by Harold K. Sage. As described by its donor, this is a "working Lincoln library" and today contains over 2,600 books and pamphlets which cover all aspects of Lincoln’s life.
Harold K. Sage grew up in Normal, Illinois, not far from the residence of Lincoln’s close friend and Illinois State University’s founder Jesse Fell. While working in an isolated part of Mississippi during the winter of 1918, Harold K. Sage read a book which changed his life. In order to pass the time during the long winter evenings, Sage had ordered several books through the mail. One of these mail order books was Ida M. Tarbell’s two-volume The Life of Abraham Lincoln. According to Sage, he was not only fascinated by this book but it also reminded him that he had "grown up ... in the heart of the Lincoln country."
The next summer while visiting his family in Bloomington-Normal, Sage went to Bloomington’s Withers Library looking for Lincoln books to read. There he discovered the Isaac N. Phillips Collection of Lincoln books and set out to acquire for himself as many of these titles as possible. During the fifty plus years that Sage created his collection, he established working relationships with other Lincoln collectors and with book dealers across the country. In donating his collection to Illinois State University, Sage also donated funds for adding new materials, thereby ensuring that it remain a “live” and active collection.