Faculty Channel •

852 RARE: Old Books, New Technologies, and “The Human Skin Book” at HLS

Practicarum Cover and SpineBaaaaaad news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy: Recent analyses of a book owned by the HLS Library, long believed but never proven to have been bound in human skin, have conclusively established that the book was bound in sheepskin.

The final page of the book includes an inscription which states,

“The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.”

Intrigued by this inscription, curators, conservators, and dermatologists have studied the book for years, but results were inconclusive. Thanks to a technique for identifying proteins that was developed in the last twenty years, we recently have been able to answer the question once and for all.

At the request of HLS Library curators and Weissman Preservation Center staff, Daniel Kirby, a conservation scientist at the Harvard University Art Museums’ Straus Center, analyzed the parchment binding of Juan Gutiérrez’ Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae (Madrid, 1605-1606; HOLLIS no. 4317553). Kirby used a method called peptide mass fingerprinting to analyze nine samples of the front and back covers, binding, and glue. With peptide mass fingerprinting, the samples could readily be differentiated from other parchment sources including cattle, deer, and goat, as well as human skin. The glue was identified as a mixture of cattle and pig collagen.

If Jonas Wright was indeed a sheep, why would someone have written such an inscription? We’ll probably never know. Perhaps before it arrived at HLS in 1946, the book was bound in a different binding at some point in its history. Or perhaps the inscription was simply the product of someone’s macabre imagination.

In any event, we are indebted to Daniel Kirby’s analysis and are glad the question is finally settled. Score one for modern science! The volume (including the sheepskin binding) is being digitized and will be available online via HOLLIS in late 2014.

852 RARE: Open for Research: The Jeffrey Toobin research collection, 1984-2002

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of a new Modern Manuscript Collection, The Jeffrey Toobin research collection, 1984-2002.

The majority of this collection consists of research material collected by Toobin for his books, The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson and Too Close To Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election. Within the collection are research notes, correspondence, clippings of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as notes and transcripts of interviews. Of particular interest to researchers, because they provide insight into his writing process, are dozens of notepads in which Toobin recorded everything from interview notes to descriptions of scenery.


Transcribed notes taking during  a meeting with Ben Ginsberg on January 26, 2001. Box 27, folder 2

Transcribed notes taking during a meeting with Ben Ginsberg on January 26, 2001. Box 27, folder 2

Jeffrey Toobin has had a distinguished career since graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1986.  He served as an Associate Council to Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh during the Iran-Contra affair, then as Assistant District Attorney in New York’s Eastern District before becoming an author and legal analyst for various news outlets.

The Jeffrey Toobin research collection is open to all researchers. The HOLLIS number is 013316177.  A finding aid is also available. Anyone interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections and schedule an appointment.

852 RARE: Real-life Murders and Bibliographical Mysteries

Intriguing as special collections materials are, cataloging may sound like a dull line of work until you discover that not infrequently it involves solving–or attempting to solve—mysteries.  This was the case earlier this winter when we acquired a lurid eight-page pamphlet with an unknown publication date:

The life of Elizabeth Brownrigg, who was executed at Tyburn, for starving Mary Clifford to death, one of her apprentices. Upon which is founded the popular peice [sic] of “Mary Clifford,” performing at the City of London Theatre.


Title page

Title page

Brownrigg’s arrest, trial, and execution occurred in 1767 and the bookseller speculated that the pamphlet may have been printed about that time, as were other accounts of the crime. Typographically, however, this pamphlet looked like a nineteenth century publication.  The imprint statement read simply “Printed and published by J.V. Quick, Bowling Green Lane, Clerkenwell” but the name “Quick” rang a bell.   More than a dozen broadsides printed in the 1830s by J.V. Quick are part of the Harvard Law School Library’s extensive collection of crime broadsides. John Vandenburg Quick, a London printer of ballads, broadsides, and light poetry was in trade between 1823 and 1853.

The dates of Quick’s printing career helped to narrow the imprint date of the pamphlet, but a thirty year date range was still less than ideal.. The key to establishing an imprint date was the caption on the pamphlet’s hand-colored frontispiece: “An interesting scene from the popular drama of Mary Clifford, as performed at the City of London Theatre.”


A quick search revealed that the City of London Theatre opened in 1837, closed in 1868, and was destroyed by fire in 1871.

This information placed the date of the publication sometime between 1837 and 1853, better than 30 years, but still rather broad. When attempts to find information on when the play turned up nothing, a staff member from The Victoria & Albert Museum’s Theatre & Performance collection found the answer in a website of “early Victorian penny fiction” called Price One Penny (POP)  which notes that the production Mary Clifford, the foundling apprentice girlpremiered on February 11, 1839. (Apparently there were subsequent productions of the play at the Britannia Hoxton theatre in 1848, 1856 and 1871.)

Like Massachusetts’ own Lizzie Borden, whose 1893 trial continues to provide entertainment for audiences many years later, the gruesome story of Elizabeth Brownrigg and Mary Clifford entertained London audiences long after their deaths and it was thanks to this that the cataloging mystery was solved.  




852 RARE: Edward Tennyson Reed — A Gentlemanly Caricature Artist

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to hold six pencil drawings by the British cartoonist and illustrator Edward Tennyson Reed (1860-1933). In the introduction to Reed’s memoirs, compiler Shane Leslie writes, “He excelled in the painless —gentlemanly caricature – never brutal or bestial….Whomsoever he caricatured…he made loveable.”

A number of Reed’s drawings in our collection deal with legal cases dating from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. One featured case is Armory v. Delamirie, (1722) 1 Strange 505; 93 E.R. 664 (King’s Bench). Armory, a chimney sweeper’s boy found a jewel in the setting of a ring, which he took to Delamirie’s shop for appraisal. When the jewel wasn’t returned to him, Armory brought an action against Delamirie. The court found that both plaintiff and defendant had property rights but as finder, Armory had better title to property and was awarded the maximum value for the jewel.

"The Master offered him three halfpence for it. The plaintiff refused".  Armory v. Delamirie. XVII. By Edward Tennyson Reed Record Identifier: olvwork733373

“The Master offered him three halfpence for it. The plaintiff refused”.
Armory v. Delamirie. XVII.
By Edward Tennyson Reed
Record Identifier: olvwork733373

E.T. Reed was born March 27, 1860, in Greenwich, London to Sir Edward James Reed and Rosetta (Barnaby) Reed. After studying at Calderon’s Art School Reed tried working as a portrait painter but when this failed he focused on illustration and cartoons. As a young man, he would accompany his father to the House of Commons where he would sketch politicians in action. This experience paid off and in June 1889 Reed went on to contribute to Punch magazine, becoming a permanent staff member the following year. From 1894-1912 he served as the magazine’s parliamentary caricaturist. After leaving Punch, Reed contributed to The Bystander, the Passing Show, the Sunday TimesPall Mall GazetteSunday Evening Telegraph, and the Evening Standard. He preferred pencil but also drew in pen, ink, and wash. Reed died July 12, 1933, in London after a long illness.

E.T. Reed's signature Detail from Armory v. Delamirie. XVII.

Close up of E.T. Reed’s signature
Detail from Armory v. Delamirie. XVII.

If you are interested in more of Reed’s work, Punch has a great website with a selection of cartoons from over the years.

1890 Punch cartoon by E.T. Reed titled: Automatic Arbitration

1901 Punch cartoon by E.T. Reed titled: Reviving “a certain splendid memory.”






Mark Bryant, Dictionary of twentieth-century British cartoonists and caricaturists, Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2000.

Mark Bryant and Simon Heneage, Dictionary of British cartoonists and caricaturists, 1730–1980, Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1994.

E. V. Knox, ‘Reed, Edward Tennyson (1860–1933)’, rev. Jane Newton, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35708, accessed 13 Feb 2014]

Edward Reed Tennyson, Edward Tennyson Reed, 1860-1933; a memoir compiled by Shane Leslie from an incomplete autobiography with a choice of his caricatures made by Kenneth Bird, London: Heinemann, [1957].

852 RARE : Greenleaf on Women’s Rights

Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was one of the first professors at Harvard Law School, serving his 15-year tenure 1833-1848, for most of those years as one third of the law school faculty, along with Josiah Quincy (1772-1864) and Joseph Story (1779-1845).  Outside of the law school, Greenleaf’s two passions were education and religion. Between his professorship and involvement with Christ Church of Cambridge, he held a fair amount of sway in the community and would give public lectures from time to time.

Greenleaf delivered one such public lecture – a lyceum lecture titled “On the Legal Rights of Women,” in 1839.    In it he compares the plight of American women to that of women in ancient Greece, Rome, and China, and then explains that women in contemporary America have equal rights to their male counterparts.  Whatever rights women do not have – voting, holding political office, or joining the military, Greenleaf explained away by saying that there are tasks more or less suited to either sex, and women are not predisposed to politics or military pursuits, as men are not suited for household chores.  The lecture caused a bit of a stir among some local women, one of whom wrote a letter to Greenleaf explaining her position and asking him to see her side of the issue. This letter was later published in a volume edited by Nancy Cott, titled Root of Bitterness: Documents of the Social History of American Women (Hollis 1253724).

The beginning of Greenleaf’s draft of “The Legal Rights of Women.” Box 26, folder 5 of the Simon Greenleaf Papers, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HLS.Libr:10774200

The beginning of Greenleaf’s draft of “The Legal Rights of Women.” Box 26, folder 5 of the Simon Greenleaf Papers, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HLS.Libr:10774200

He later published the lecture as an article in the Christian Review (Hollis 129107) in June 1840, and his handwritten draft is in the Simon Greenleaf Papers, held by the Harvard Law School Library.  The collection was recently digitized and readers can judge for themselves whether or not Greenleaf took a forward-looking view of women’s rights in society.

New Exhibit: Beyond Cambridge: Two Centuries of Harvard Law School Faculty Work in and on Africa

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce its new exhibit: Beyond Cambridge: Two Centuries of Harvard Law School Faculty Work in and on Africa, on view in the library’s Caspersen Room until April 27, 2014. 

Africa-display-web-reduced text-cropped

 It’s no secret that Harvard Law School faculty do not – and have not – restricted their time and knowledge to the confines of Harvard. This exhibit focuses on the experience of four faculty members in Africa. The faculty, Simon Greenleaf, Arthur Sutherland, Erwin Griswold and Roger Fisher did work ranging from the promotion of education in Liberia in the mid-nineteenth century to involvement in South Africa during the country’s transition from apartheid to free elections in the late twentieth century – and donated their respective papers and manuscripts to the Harvard Law School Library.

 The exhibit, curated by Ed Moloy and Mary Person, will be on view in the Caspersen Room Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM through April 27, 2014.

Library to close at 2 p.m. on January 2nd and reopen at 9 a.m. on Saturday, January 4th

Due to the current prediction of substantial snow accumulation and severe weather throughout Boston and Cambridge starting today and continuing through Friday, the Harvard Law School Library will close at two p.m. today (Thursday, January 2nd) and will remain closed all day Friday, January 3rd. While closed, the library will NOT be accessible via the 24 hour swipe card mechanism. WCC WILL remain accessible during this period. The library will reopen on Saturday, January 4th at 9am.

Library Hours Over Winter Break

Photo by jspad. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Photo by jspad. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

With Winter Break fast approaching, keep in mind that the library will be operating on limited hours over the break. The reference desk will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, December 21st and 22nd. The entire library will be closed from noon on Tuesday, December 24th until 9am on Thursday, January 2nd. Be sure to check out any books you will need over the break before we close! Also, if you feel like playing some games over the break, be sure to check out the library’s collection of board games. You can check them out for the entire break!

Library Exhibit News

Take a break from studying and visit some new, ongoing, and soon-to-be-history exhibits in the Caspersen Room:

Women at HLS: 60 Years of Transformation closes this Friday, December 13, so see it while you can!

An exhibit celebrating the release of the Papers of James Vorenberg continues on view through Commencement 2014.

And last but not least, the historic copy of the Declaration of Independence, generously lent by the family of Robin and Marc (HLS 84) Wolpow, will be on view through Reunion Weekend, April 2014. 

The Caspersen Room is open weekdays from 9 to 5. Enjoy the exhibits, and good luck with exams!

852 RARE : New Collection: The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of a new Modern Manuscript collection, The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913.

The Albert Burt (Harvard Law School, class of 1914) collection is relatively small by Modern Manuscript standards containing a mere 63 letters and 7 postcards.  But these 70 documents provide unique and invaluable insight into the life of a Harvard Law School student in the early twentieth century. In these letters written to his mother, father and two brothers , Albert writes about everything from the weather and housing, to life in Cambridge and, perhaps most interesting of all, his social and academic life at the Law School.

In one letter, dated October 29, 1911, Burt provides vignettes of faculty members.  He refers to professor Joseph Beale as the “argumentative Prof”  and notes a comment by a fellow student that, “doesn’t the old cuss love to get you to make a fool of yourself?”  Professor Bruce Wyman is described as the “round, roly-poly, jolly, smiling prof” who will, “… do pretty much nearly all of the work if you’ll let him.”

Excerpt of letter dated October 29, 2911. Box 1, folder 10 of the Albert F. Burt Letters.

Excerpt of letter dated October 29, 2911. Box 1, folder 10 of the Albert F. Burt Letters.

Dean Ezra Ripley Thayer is mentioned in a letter to Albert’s brother Howard written in November 1911.  He writes that, “…now it is etiquette in that class not to ask any questions unless you really want to know, because it takes the Dean so long to give a poor answer if he tries it himself and because you doubt whether the answer is trustworthy if he turns the question on the class.”

According to one letter the recently built Langdell Hall appeared to have been something of a novelty to students. In a letter dated October 22, 1911 Burt mentions that, “The whole plan of the institution seems to be that we should do our studying in these places”.   (The other “place” being Austin Hall.)  Encouragement to do so includes the existence of “… a whole staff to get us the books and everything we need in using them…” and that students were “…provided with lockers in the basements…” to store books and other necessary items.

This Albert F. Burt Letters will be of interest to anyone interested in the history of the Law School.  The HOLLIS number is 13846966.  A finding aid is also available. Researchers interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections and schedule an appointment.

Post contributed by Edwin Moloy, Curator of Modern Manuscripts.