Cool •

Check Out A Game For the Thanksgiving Break!

print.82Did you know that the library offers a number of board games (as well as outdoor games and tools!) for use by our patrons? You can check them out at the circulation desk any time and keep them for one day. And, as a way of celebrating Thanksgiving, we have extended that loan period for all games so that you can check them out for the whole week of Thanksgiving. Check out a game any time before Thanksgiving and it won’t be due back until the Monday after the break.

Whether you are headed home for the holiday or staying in Cambridge, check out a game to play with friends or family. We have a wide range of options from Monopoly to Scrabble; read the full list and pick out something fun for your holiday entertainment!

Check Out Our Latest Research Guides

The librarians at the Harvard Law School Library are always working to create new guides to help you with your research and technology needs and we have recently debuted several new guides:

Archive Websites with

perma-logoHave you ever read an article or legal opinion that cited a website that no longer exists? If so, you know the issues that this presents for authors and scholars. With internet content changing every day, it can be difficult to be sure that a website that you cite now will be available to your readers by the time your article is published. One recent study found that as many as 70% of the links in legal journal citations and 50% of the citations in Supreme Court opinions are broken.

The Harvard Law School Library, in cooperation with a group of over 30 other libraries, has developed to address this problem. allows users to archive websites that they cite in their scholarship for two years. If their work is later published, the editors of the publishing journal can “vest” the archived copy of the link, which will permanently preserve it in its original format. Interested in trying Check out our guide, which offers step-by-step instructions on how to preserve websites with

App of the Month: U.S. Constitution – Analysis and Interpretation

U.S. Constitution App LogoOn September 17th of this year, the Library of Congress celebrated Constitution Day by releasing a new resource, the Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation. This document contains the full text of the United States Constitution as well as in-depth analysis of each individual clause. As part of the analysis, the document includes discussions of every relevant Supreme Court case through June 26, 2013 and information about selected historical documents. It also includes, according to the app itself, a list of “all federal, state and local laws that have been struck down by the Supreme Court, and all cases where the Court overturned its previous precedent.” Available both online and as an iPhone or iPad app, the resource is fully searchable and also offers the option to export the content to your preferred e-reading app or to email sections to yourself. The table of cases and index in the app also help researchers to quickly locate relevant information. While the PDF format of the pages can be a bit difficult to read on an iPhone, the app includes so much useful information that it is worth checking out if you are interested in legal history of the U.S. Constitution. And, best of all, it is free!

If you are interested in more apps for research, productivity or just plain fun, check out our guide to mobile apps.

852 RARE: A Magnificent Copy of Magna Carta

Magna Carta

Magna Carta cum Statutis, ca. 1335 (HLS MS 32, fol. 9r)

When HLS students stop by Historical & Special Collections during the Library’s annual Love Your Library Fest, many are delighted at the chance to see one of our beautiful manuscript copies of the great English statute, Magna Carta, up close. This month’s 852 RARE post is for those who want to know a little more about the copy we had on display, and to whet the appetites of those who did not have a chance to see it. The HLS Library is fortunate to own more than twenty manuscript copies of Magna Carta; from time to time we will feature some of these in our blog posts.

First issued in 1215, Magna Carta, or the “Great Charter,” was intended to limit King John’s power over his subjects and preserved the rights of feudal barons. It has been a cornerstone of English and American constitutional law for nearly 800 years, and its influence has been felt throughout the world.

Table of Statutes

Table of Statutes, Magna Carta cum Statutis (HLS MS 32, fol. 1r)

Our handsome manuscript compilation of English statutes dates from about 1335. Typical of such works, the statutes are arranged in chronological order, beginning with Magna Carta. The Charter of the Forest, issued in 1217, appears next. Other statutes include the 1235 Statute of Merton (dealing with dower, enclosure of common lands, legitimacy, and usury), and the Assize of Bread (the earliest English legislation regulating the size, weight and price of bread). Since the laws are arranged chronologically, as shown in the Table of Statutes here, it is possible to determine the date of a manuscript by looking at the date of the last statute – which for this manuscript was 1335.

This manuscript was written on vellum in Law French by an English scribe. Note the beautiful handwriting and the straight, even lines of text! The scribe accomplished this feat by making tiny pinpricks on either side of each leaf as a guide to keep the lines even. The scribe, or more likely an illustrator, drew initial capitals and ornamental grotesques at the beginning of many of the statutes. The largest and most striking – a winged dragon playing a large oboe-like instrument – embellishes the beginning of Magna Carta.

Ornamental Grotesque

Magna Carta cum Statutis (HLS MS 32, fol. 9r – detail)

852 RARE: Coke Upon Littleton (and Smith Upon Coke)

While we librarians may frown on writing in library books, it’s a pleasure to stumble upon the ownership inscriptions, annotations, and occasional cheeky asides of former owners of books in Historical & Special Collections.  Whenever possible we make a note of former owners of books and manuscripts in the HOLLIS catalog records as they may be of interest to scholars now or in the future.

The Harvard Law School Library is fortunate to have in its collection several books and manuscripts owned by the highly respected New Hampshire jurist and statesman Jeremiah Smith (1759 1842). Also in the collection is this undated engraving of Smith.

Smith practiced law in Peterborough N.H. from 1786 until 1796 and between 1791 and 1820 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, was nominated by John Adams to a federal judgeship, became chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and was governor of New Hampshire. He was also a close colleague and friend of Daniel Webster. Smith is known to have been was very well-read … and he wrote in his books.

Smith's ownership inscription on front flyleaf.

Smith’s ownership inscription on front flyleaf.

Most noticeable in Smith’s volumes is his large and elegant signature. Thankfully for historians, he also often added the date and city where he acquired it. One of Smith’s books in our collection is the fourteenth edition (1789) of The first part of the institutes of the laws of England. Or, a commentary upon Littleton, by the illustrious legal writer Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634). Smith acquired this substantial folio volume in New York in 1792, perhaps travelling between New Hampshire and Washington, DC while serving in Congress.


Detail of title page of 14th edition of Coke's Commentary upon Littleton (1789)

Detail of title page of 14th edition of Coke’s Commentary upon Littleton (1789)

Although he rarely annotated his books, in this case he was inspired to write a succinct line. This more informal handwriting matches other manuscripts we have in his hand, and was possibly written later in life. He wrote:

Comment on Coke

Smith’s comments on Coke upon Littleton.

“The etymologies of the great Sir Edward Coke afford a singular instance of the blunders of which men of the greatest abilities are sometimes guilty when they venture to speculate in [a science?] for which they have not been qualified by previous study.”

Words to the wise from an eminent jurist –and a choice nugget for readers intrigued by provenance!

Finding Public Domain and Creative Commons Images

Whether you are working on a classroom presentation, a personal website or any other project, images can add some visual interest to your design. However, you won’t always have taken the perfect image for your purposes. In these situations, the best solution is to try to find a public domain or Creative Commons licensed image. To make this process easier, the library has developed a guide to finding and using such images. Check it out and let us know if we have missed any additional sources that we should add!

New Exhibit: Treasures from Historical & Special Collections

Normandy (France). Summa de Legibus Normanniae, ca. 1300, fol. 26v (detail). HLS MS 220.

Normandy (France). Summa de Legibus Normanniae, ca. 1300, fol. 26v (detail). HLS MS 220.

You are invited to visit the Library’s Caspersen Room in Langdell Hall to see some of Historical & Special Collections’ most special treasures, on view through November 22. Eight beautiful and historically significant items await you in the glass cases at the front of the room, including:

  • The Library’s oldest European manuscript, Gratian’s Decretum. Our copy was written around 1160 AD.
  • A very early and very portable Magna Carta, written around 1300. Our copy was intended to be slipped into a lawyer’s sleeve and carried about on business.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior’s own copy of his first edition of The Common Law, which he annotated to prepare the second edition.
  • A deed, dated 1408, featuring a well-preserved Great Seal of Henry IV in wax.

There’s much more. And while you’re there, don’t miss our exhibit, Women at HLS: 60 Years of Transformation, on view through December 13.

The Caspersen Room is open weekdays from 9 to 5. Please leave all food and drinks outside the room when you visit. We hope to see you soon!

App of the Month: Evernote

EvernoteEvernote has so many potential uses that it is difficult to know where to begin. Since this post focuses on Evernote’s apps, perhaps its most relevant feature is the way that it allows you to save almost anything, no matter where you encounter it, and share saved items across all of your devices. Probably best known as a note-taking app, Evernote is a great option for taking notes on virtually any device. It offers apps for a wide range of mobile devices, including Android devices, Blackberries, iOS Devices and Windows phones. Once you have taken notes on any of your devices, you can share that note across all of your devices by syncing to your Evernote account.

You can probably already see how useful this would be just as a note-taking tool, but Evernote goes far beyond this with how it works with other types of saved materials. Perhaps the most impressive is its ability to save images of virtually anything and then detect any words in those images, making the images full-text searchable. This means that you can take pictures of every business card you receive to create a fully searchable database of your network of contacts or you can take pictures of the blackboard in your classes to create searchable class notes. While this is clearly a great feature, it is not Evernote’s only feature. You can also save maps, audio files or entire web pages to your account for later use. And, everything you save can be tagged and organized into notebooks, making you more efficient and better organized.

Beyond the main Evernote application, the company also offers a wide range of apps that supplement the functionality of your Evernote account, such as Penultimate, a handwriting recognition app that lets you write on your touchscreen device with a stylus and converts your handwriting into a searchable note, and Evernote Peek, a flashcard app for iPad. In addition, Evernote maintains “The Trunk,” which is a collection of third-party apps that work with Evernote to extend its functionality in a number of ways.

If you think Evernote sounds interesting, check out our guide to Getting Started with Evernote. If you are interested in more apps for research, productivity or just plain fun, check out our guide to mobile apps.

852 RARE: A Wealth of Pocket-Sized Portraits

Example of a  cabinet card.

Cabinet card
William Penn Lyon (1822-1913)
Wisconsin lawyer, soldier, and legislator
E.R. Curtiss, Photographer, undated
Madison, WI

You may have seen some of our larger than life portraits of legal figures such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. or John Marshall, but did you know that we also have a wonderful collection of pocket-sized portraits in the form of cabinet cards and cartes de visite? The collection features more than 700 formal portraits of lawyers, judges, and law professors, primarily from the United States and Western Europe. These photographs will be of interest to those studying legal history, the history of photography, and anyone curious about the past.

Patented in 1854 by French photographer, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri (1819-1899), the carte de visite is a small photograph mounted on a stiff piece of card the size of a formal visiting card (hence the name). Compared to daguerreotypes, they were much less expensive to make and easily leant themselves to mass production and marketing. Cards featuring public figures such as entertainers, royalty, and politicians were marketed as collectibles to the European community.

The 1860s marked the height of the carte de visite craze and by the 1870s they were being replaced by the larger “cabinet cards.” While the small size of carte de visites (approximately 4.5 x 2.5 inches) made them ideal for being collected in albums, cabinet cards (approximately 6.5 x 4.5 inches) were large enough to display on their own and viewed across a room.

Carte de visite  of Sir Richard Paul Amphlett (1809-1883) English barrister and politicianThe London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, 1875? London, England

Carte de visite (recto)
Sir Richard Paul Amphlett (1809-1883)
English barrister and politician
The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, 1875?
London, England

Hon. Baron Amphlett_verso

Carte de visite (verso)
Sir Richard Paul Amphlett (1809-1883)

Whether you want to investigate nineteenth century facial hair, compare wigs on English barristers, or learn more about a Wisconsin lawyer, this collection is worth some time exploring. For those interested in further information about the collection, we have an inventory we’d be happy to share with you. Inquiries can be directed to







Sources: Baldwin, Gordon. Looking at Photographs: A guide to technical terms. Malibu, Calif.: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with British Museum Press, 1991; Linkman, Audrey. The Victorians: Photographic Portraits. London: Tauris Parke Books, 1993; Reilly, James M. Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak, 1986.