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Help Us With Our Web Re-Design!

Have a say on our web re-design. Take our usability test: April 21 & 28, 3:30 PM. Earn Swag. Email to RSVPOn April 21st and April 28th, we will be conducting usability tests on the online research guides created by Harvard librarians. These tests offer a great opportunity to give us your feedback about our guides and have a real impact on how we re-design them this summer. Best of all, you can earn swag in the form of a phone charger, umbrella, or water bottle for your trouble.

If you are available between 3pm and 5pm on Tuesday, April 21st or Tuesday, April 28th, please email to RSVP. Spaces are limited, so hurry to reserve your spot!

Please note: This usability test is limited to current Harvard students, but we always welcome feedback on our web presence via

852 RARE: Medieval Manuscripts Online – Magna Carta & More

The HLS Library’s Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the release of two early manuscript digital collections of interest to students and scholars of medieval Anglo-American legal history. We are grateful to the Ames Foundation for contributing some of the funding for these projects.

To celebrate Magna Carta’s 800th birthday, we have digitized our entire manuscript collection of English statutory compilations, which include Magna Carta, dating from about 1300 to 1500. Many of the volumes have beautiful illustrations, like the one shown here.


Magna Carta cum Statutis, ca. 1325. HLS MS 12, fol. 27r.

One of our favorites is a Sheriff’s Magna Carta – a single-sheet copy of the statute which was read aloud in a town square four times a year.

HLS MS 172

Magna Carta, ca. 1327. HLS MS 172.

We have also digitized our entire manuscript collection of registers of English legal writs, which were used to initiate legal actions in a court. Our collection of registers dates from about 1275 to 1476. Most of our manuscript registers are fairly humble, but this one has a magnificent illuminated initial:

HLS MS 155

Registrum Brevium, 1384. HLS MS 155, fol. 34r (detail).

 Cataloging information for each manuscript may be found by searching HOLLIS and browsing by “other call number”: HLS MS XXX; XXX refers to the manuscript number.

The Ames Foundation has begun a project to fully describe the contents of these statutes and registers to make them even more useful to scholars. Read more about the project, see an example of a fully-described manuscript (HLS MS 184), and find out how you can help.

Together with our recently released English Manor Rolls digitization project, these materials open up a new realm of research possibilities to scholars around the world. We hope you enjoy them!

Early English Manor Rolls Go Online

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce that we have begun a multi-year project to conserve and digitize our collection of English manor rolls. The rolls came to Harvard over a century ago, purchased in 1892 and 1893 by Harvard Professor William James Ashley (1860-1927) from London bookseller James Coleman. In 1925 the College Library transferred the collection to the Harvard Law School Library.

The manor roll collection consists of 170 court-rolls, account-rolls, and other documents from various manors, ranging in date from 1282 to 1770. The largest concentration comes from the manor of Moulton in Cheshire. Other manors represented are Odiham Hundred, Hampshire; Herstmonceaux, Sussex; Chartley, Staffordshire; and Onehouse, Suffolk. A limited number of materials in this collection are single-sheet charters and one item is a map of the manor of Shelly, Suffolk.

Manor roll 16A (2)

Detail of roll from Moulton, Cheshire 1518-1521 (Box 2, 16)


For a complete description of the collection, see the finding aid, which will change and grow as digital images of the rolls become available, and links to them, along with improved descriptions of the rolls will be added. We expect this primary resource will be of particular interest to legal and local historians, students of early modern English history, and genealogists, all of whom have already used the rolls in their research. We also hope that by putting the rolls online, they will reach a broader audience who may pursue research questions that have not previously encompassed the manor rolls. We welcome your suggestions for improved descriptions; email with your feedback.

New Book Review Blog: The New Rambler

The New Rambler: an Online Review of Books may be of interest to our community. The New Rambler “publishes reviews of books about ideas, including literary fiction” and reviews to date cover books about history, opera, and philosophy.

While the topics are broad, the editors and reviewers include some familiar names in the law school world: The New Rambler’s editors include our own Adrian Vermeule, John H. Watson Professor of Law, as well as the University of Chicago Law School’s Eric Posner. In addition, HLS’s Cass Sunstein is one of the authors in the initial batch of reviews.

Check it out!

New series: Scanning Nuremberg

We’re pleased to announce a new series to our blog: Scanning Nuremberg.

Scanning Nuremberg will share the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website. Matt shares not only the statistical progress of the project and behind-the-scenes of digitization, but insights into patterns of the cases, topics of testimony, ghosts of missing text, and mysterious phrases. We hope you’ll find his monthly observations as fascinating as we do.

Look for the first official post early next week; we’ll update every two weeks until we get caught up with Matt!

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Court in session at the Nuremberg Trials, olvgroup12379

Court in session at the Nuremberg Trials, Record Identifier: olvgroup12379

The Harvard Law School Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have already digitized NMT 1 (U.S.A. v. Karl Brandt et al.), NMT 2 (U.S.A. v. Erhard Milch), and NMT 4 (U.S.A. v. Pohl et al.), and we’re in the process of digitizing our remaining holdings. We expect to have NMT 3 (The Judges’ Trial) completed and available to the public by the summer of 2015.

Although the digitization of the remaining trials will also be complete by the end of this year, they will require analysis and tagging work before they can be released to the public.  We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding. For more information about this project, please contact Kim Dulin.

Downton Abbey and the Campbell Divorce Case

Hugh "Shrimpy" MacClare

Hugh “Shrimpy” MacClare

Post by Mary Person and Meg Kribble

Warning: this post contains spoilers through the February 22 broadcast of Downton Abbey in the United States!

Like many of you, we at the library enjoy watching and discussing the ITV/PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey. We’re always ready for a good story involving an entail! One of the issues that captured our attention more recently is the impending divorce (gasp!) between Hugh “Shrimpy” MacClare, Marquess of Flintshire, and his thoroughly unpleasant wife Susan. As we saw last week, even the threat of a divorce by the handsome Atticus Aldridge’s mother Lady Sinderby was enough to silence the perpetually dour Lord Sinderby into allowing the marriage of his son and Lady Rose MacClare to proceed.

In Victorian and Edwardian England, divorce was a source of shame and embarrassment, even a stain on the family name itself. The scandal of divorce among aristocrats caught the attention of everyone else, and provided sources of titillating reading along with public humiliation. Even now those stories live on in books and blogs. We discovered a modern account of one scandalous 19th-century  true story of the love, marriage, adultery, and divorce of one Lord and Lady Colin Campbell in the late nineteenth century at Rejected Princesses. (You can read more about her interesting biography at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.)

Lady Colin Campbell

Lady Colin Campbell, seq. 9 from The Campbell Divorce Case

As it happens, HLSL has an 1887 copy of The Campbell divorce case. Copious report of the trial. With numerous portraits of those concerned, drawn from life. With numerous portraits of those concerned, drawn from life, part of our collection Studies in Scarlet: Marriage & Sexuality in the U.S. and U.K. 1815-1914. Take a look at the digitized version. If nothing else, we recommend reading the scathing social commentary in the single-page preface to this case, brought to our attention by our colleague John Hostage. With commentary like “the skeleton of Society is there stript of its meretricious gloss and glitter, and laid bare to the public gaze in the full horror of its festering hideousness,” you’ll understand why divorce was the last thing socially-conscious aristocratic families wanted tarnishing their good names!

Fun bonus trivia: the Campbell case is the source of the phrase “what the butler saw.” During the trial, the entire jury visited the Campbell home to evaluate whether the butler could have seen Lady Campbell and a companion through a keyhole.

852 Rare: Libelous Kentucky Broadsides

In politically polarized times such as these, when it feels like election season is endless and the mudslinging between political parties is relentless, it’s easy to despair. It may seem that we’ve reached a new low in politics, but our colorful— and at times violent— historical record reminds us this is hardly the case.

The broadsides shown below come from a 1941 Harlan County, Kentucky election. Insults and wild accusations were hurled by both opponents, which ultimately resulted in a libel case.

A message to all the good truth-loving, taxpaying, church people of Harlan county; Howard, J. B. M., [S.l. : s.n., 1941], HOLLIS 4006542.

A message to all the good truth-loving, taxpaying, church people of Harlan county; Howard, J. B. M., [S.l. : s.n., 1941], HOLLIS 4006542.

The secrets of Squire J.B.M. Howard's suicides and self defense., Keller, John, [S.l. : s.n., 1941], HOLLIS 4029348.

The secrets of Squire J.B.M. Howard’s suicides and self defense. : I want to ask you voters if you…, Keller, John, [S.l. : s.n., 1941], HOLLIS 4029348.














After accusing each other of an array of offenses that range from dishonesty to drunk driving to bootlegging to murder, the candidates eventually had to sum things up for voters:

A message to all the good truth-loving, taxpaying, church people of Harlan county; Howard, J. B. M., [S.l. : s.n., 1941], Detail of HOLLIS 4006542.

A message to all the good truth-loving, taxpaying, church people of Harlan county; Howard, J. B. M., [S.l. : s.n., 1941], Detail of HOLLIS 4006542.

The secrets of Squire J.B.M. Howard's suicides and self defense., Keller, John, [S.l. : s.n., 1941], Detail of HOLLIS 4029348.

The secrets of Squire J.B.M. Howard’s suicides and self defense., Keller, John, [S.l. : s.n., 1941], Detail of HOLLIS 4029348.

Although we have not been able to locate the results of this Harlan County election, we can learn something about the alternately spirited and vicious nature of Eastern Kentucky politics from this material. The accusations in the broadsides are part of a long history of election violence in the area, though these particular claims may in fact be false.

Interestingly, it seems that Harvard Law School’s Professor Zechariah Chafee probably gave these broadsides to the library. You can see his name penciled in the margins, as well as the date the broadsides were acquired by the library—November 15, 1947. Historical & Special Collections holds Professor Chafee’s professional papers, the contents of which you can explore through the collection’s finding aid. This material relates to Chafee’s work as a law teacher, legal scholar, and defender of civil liberties.

Nerdy valentines for law students

If you’re looking for the perfect way to express both ardor and nerdiness this Valentine’s Day, we’ve got some suggestions for you!

First, NPR has a nice crop of valentines every year, though we gravitate toward the 2012 editions which include one that talks of courting supremely, and the 2011 editions, which include one that talks about violating Rule 47 CFR Part 73 of the FCC Radio Broadcast Rules in the name of speaking love (#6 in the slideshow). Nothing gets our law librarian hearts beating faster like a good citation to primary law!

We’re also fans of Georgetown University Law Weekly’s valetines. Whether your beloved favors the jurisprudence of Scalia or Ginsburg, you’ll be all set.

Closer to home, the Harvard Library also has a new crop of e-valentines to share with those you love. This year’s selection includes images of an old school card catalogue, a flower from Emily Dickinson’s herbarium, and a photo of Julia and Paul Child.

Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Free resource: Historical Thesaurus of English

For fans of old words and synonyms, the Historical Thesaurus of English from the University of Glasgow may be of interest:

The HT is the only online resource to make every English word from the last 1,000 years and its meaning available to the public and fully searchable.

The HT contains a record of nearly 800,000 words used at any point over the last millennium. It also contains links to their synonyms and records when the word came into and disappeared from use.

Infodocket also notes that HT entries include direct links to the Oxford English Dictionary online, which Harvard subscribes to.

January Madness – Julius Erving (aka “Dr. J.”) and Watergate

What do NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving and Watergate have in common?  Absolutely nothing … except for legal Hall of Famer– Archibald Cox.

It would be reasonable for a person to ask how the lives of two men working in such different professions could overlap.  Professor Cox never performed a “Rock the Baby” style dunk and Mr. Erving never served as a special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. Their lives intersected from approximately December 1972 until May 1973 when Cox served as an arbitrator in the Matter of Julius Erving and the Virginia Squires Basketball Club of the American Basketball Association.


Page 1 of 2 page letter from Robert Carlson to Archibald Cox. Archibald Cox Papers, Box 66, Folder 5.


Very briefly:  Erving turned pro after his junior year at the University of Massachusetts and signed a 4-year contract with the Virginia Squires starting on October 1, 1971.  In April, 1972 he signed a contract with the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association – hence the legal issue. (Erving claimed that the Squires contract was invalid.)  Erving lost the case and returned to the Squires who folded shortly thereafter due to financial problems. He went on to a Hall of Fame career most notably with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cox was unable to complete his engagement as arbitrator for this case. In early May, 1973 he accepted appointment as the first Watergate special prosecutor.  In a letter to the attorneys for Erving v. the ABA, he apologized for removing himself explaining that, “It seemed to me that the same circumstances of national importance gave me no real choice but to undertake the assignment and made it proper to have to override the arbitral engagement.”



Portion of letter from Cox to attorneys announcing that he is stepping down as arbitrator. Cox Papers, Box 66, Folder 5


Historical & Special Collections holds the Archibald Cox papers, which has several boxes of material from his time as special prosecutor. The Library’s Watergate research material is enhanced by the James S. Doyle collection of Watergate material, and the papers of James Vorenberg, who was a senior assistant to Cox, (as well as a Harvard Law School colleague).