The collection of early English law, printed between 1490 and 1599, is one of the finest in the country, featuring over half of the titles found in Joseph Beale’s benchmark A Bibliography of Early English Law Books (1926). Included are rare editions of standout works, including those by Bracton, Littleton, Fitzherbert and Rastell. A particular treasure is a set of fourteen early editions of Magna Carta. Among works printed between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries are a wide range of English statutes, Year Books, nominative reports, abridgements, practice guides, treatises, trial accounts and dictionaries.
Early American law is also a strength, including early American laws and statutes from the original thirteen colonies, important documents of the American Revolution and early federal laws. Among highlights are editions of seventeenth-century laws from Virginia and Massachusetts, a 1776 edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and a rare copy of the proceedings of the first Continental Congress. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century state laws, prestatehood territorial laws, early commentaries on American law and printed trial accounts are also well represented.
The Center holds an extraordinary trove of letters to and from Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), widely regarded as the greatest American trial lawyer. The letters have been digitized as part of the Clarence Darrow Digital Collection, an award-winning research site. The site includes the letters and transcriptions, as well as digitized trial briefs, legal articles, pamphlets, and other items related to key Darrow cases. Beyond letters, the Center continues to add to its superb collection of printed works and photographs by and about Darrow and his life.
American Indian Law
The Collection has excellent holdings of American Indian law. The Library’s collection of rare folio treaties ranges from a treaty concluded in 1827 between the United States and the Ojibwa, Menomonie and Winnebago tribes, to an 1868 treaty with the Nez Perce, the last treaty signed between the United States and an American Indian tribe. Included are also primary materials of American Indian governments in the nineteenth century, both in English and in the vernacular.
Other Collection Areas
The Collection features works related to slavery and abolitionism in the United States and early women’s rights movements, a superb collection of early Minnesota territorial and state law, and a strong collection of Roman and canon law and early international law. There are also notable holdings in rare foreign law of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Russian and Chinese law, and an extensive collection of colonial Indian law. A cherished rare law and literature collection comprises over one hundred titles.