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U of M Law Library > Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center > Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection

Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection
Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center

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The foundation for the Rare Books Collection was laid by Arthur Pulling, Law Library Director from 1912 to 1942. Professor Pulling’s creation of a stellar rare books collection was, as former law librarian Caroline Brede noted, the result of his “vast knowledge of books, prices, dealers, and his well-known ability to ‘horse-trade.’” His purchases of English and American legal classics are the cornerstone of the Rare Books Collection and are the foundation for the Law Library’s reputation as one of the outstanding legal research collections in the country.

The Rare Books Collection is rich and multifaceted. The collection of early English law, from 1490 to 1599, is one of the finest in the country and includes over half of the titles listed in Joseph Beale’s Bibliography of Early English Law. The Collection contains works by such giants of the common law as Bracton, Littleton, Coke, and Blackstone. Among the rarities of the Collection are a 1514 printing of Magna Carta, a 1528 edition of Sir Thomas Littleton’s Tenures, and a first edition of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769).

One of the greatest strengths of the Rare Books Collection is early American law, including a particularly impressive collection of early session laws of the original thirteen colonies, early constitutions of the states, and important documents of the American Revolution. Of particular note are a 1776 edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, a rare copy of the proceedings of the first Continental Congress, and a first edition of The Federalist (1788). Early editions of the works of such scholars as James Kent and Joseph Story are well represented.

An additional strength of the Collection is American Indian law. The Library’s collection of rare folio treaties ranges from a treaty concluded in 1827 between the United States and the Chippewa, Menomonie, and Winnebago Indians to the 1868 treaty with the Nez Percé, the last treaty signed between the United States and an Indian tribe. The Collection includes primary materials of American Indian governments in the nineteenth century, many in both English and the vernacular. Among the Collection’s treasures is a rare 1840 edition of the laws of the Cherokee Nation.

The Collection also is strong in foreign and international law, including a particularly fine corpus of the cases and codes from Imperial Russia and an impressive number of early editions of the works of such scholars as Grotius, Pufendorf and Vattel. Of particular interest in the canon and civil law collection is a 1494 printing of the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX and a 1498 edition of the fourth part of Corpus Juris Civilis.

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