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Washington, Jan 20: Barack Obama on Tuesday became the first US president to swear on the Bible that Abraham Lincoln used for his inauguration 147 years ago.

US presidents are not constitutionally required to be sworn in using a Bible, though most do, Theodore Roosevelt being the most notable exception.

With expectations from Obama riding high, his choice of the Lincoln Bible is seen as a powerful symbol of a historic occasion.

Presidential Inaugural Committee executive director Emmett Beliveau said Obama was "deeply honoured" to have the first use of the Lincoln Bible since the Civil War to "provide a powerful connection to our common past and common heritage".

This was the first time since Lincoln on March 4, 1861, that this Bible was used for a presidential swearing in.

So far, George Washington's Bible has been a popular choice, used by Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower and George W. Bush.

Other presidents have opted for personal Bibles - Richard Nixon used two belonging to his family, and Bill Clinton chose his grandmother's.

Facing a nation divided nation, Lincoln used his first inaugural address to call for national unity, arguing that the US constitution was created "to form a more perfect Union".

The Lincoln Bible, an 1853 Oxford University Press edition, is about six inches long, four inches wide and less than two inches thick.

Lincoln, after taking the oath, had kissed the book, following a tradition started by George Washington.

After the inauguration, the Bible will be on display at the Library of Congress from Feb 12 to May 9 as part of an exhibition for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

Picture: Abraham Lincoln's Inauguration Bible.

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