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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 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 Bibliography of Early English Law. Within the Collection are rare editions of standout works, including those by Bracton, Littleton, Coke, Hale and Blackstone. A particular treasure is a set of fourteen early editions of Magna Carta. The Collection likewise features excellent holdings of English statutes, Year Books, nominative reports, trial accounts, abridgements, practice guides and dictionaries. Many of these bear the signatures and annotations of their owners, and are rich sources of historical information.

Early American law is showcased within the Collection, and includes early American laws and statutes from the original thirteen colonies, early constitutions and important documents of the American Revolution. Among highlights are several editions of seventeenth-century laws of Virginia, 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). Nineteenth-century state statutes and early commentaries on American law are also well represented.

The Collection includes 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 Chippewa, 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 strong primary materials of American Indian governments in the nineteenth century, some in both English and the vernacular.

The Center likewise holds a trove of extraordinary letters to and from Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), widely regarded as the greatest American trial lawyer. The letters, acquired in 2004, have been digitized as part of the Clarence Darrow Digital Collection [link], a site which also includes digitized trial briefs, legal articles, pamphlets and other items related to key Darrow cases. The Center continues to add to its superior collection of material by and about Darrow and his life.

The Collection also features works related to slavery and abolitionism in the United States and early women’s rights movements, has a superb collection of early Minnesota territorial and state law, a strong collection of early international law, notable holdings in rare foreign law – including Russian and Chinese law – and a rare law and literature collection featuring over one hundred titles.

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The Rare Books Collection can be searched through the MNCAT discovery catalog. For questions concerning particular authors, titles or research interests related to the Collection, please contact Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections.