Presidents are not constitutionally required to be sworn in using a Bible, though most do, Theodore Roosevelt being the most notable exception. George Washington’s Bible has been a popular choice, used by Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower and George H. W. Bush. Other presidents have opted for Bibles that hold more personal significance, such as Bill Clinton’s choice of his grandmother’s Bible.
Since Lincoln’s family Bible was still en route from Springfield, IL, at the time of his inauguration, Supreme Court Clerk William Thomas Carroll purchased a Bible for the swearing-in ceremony in 1861. President-elect Obama will be the first president to be sworn in using this Bible since Abraham Lincoln.
You can see the Lincoln Inaugural Bible up close at the Library of Congress from February 12 to May 9, 2009, as part of an exhibition called “With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition.” If you miss your chance to see the exhibit in Washington, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the Bible as it travels to five other cities in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of our 16th president.