Housed within the largest academic law library in North America, the Harvard Law School Library Special Collections Department holds much of what you would expect: early editions of Blackstone, Coke, and Littleton; the papers and correspondence of many faculty and alumni; primary materials covering early English, Continental, and US laws; institutional records and publications; as well as photographs and portraits of classes, faculty, and alumni.
But one can also find a great deal that is unexpected: beautiful book bindings that once seemed commonplace; stories revealed by the personal effects of great legal minds; historical events overlooked by time or modern sensibilities; and early printed decorative initials that range from the enchanting and winsome to the macabre.
The Expected & Unexpected: Harvard Law School Library’s Special Collections featured material drawn from all collecting areas in Special Collections: Rare Books and Early Manuscripts, Modern Manuscripts and Archives, the Red Set, and Art and Visual Materials. The exhibit also provided examples of some recent scholarship that used material from the Collection—some of which is in itself unexpected. We hope that this exhibit served not only as a reminder of what the Law Library has to offer those interested in legal research, but also emphasized the diversity of the collection and encouraged researchers from all academic disciplines to visit our collections.
This exhibit was on view in the Caspersen Room, Harvard Law School Library June 13 - September 30, 2008.