Harvard Law School Library News •

Roof update for late August!

Langdell Hall roof, August 10, 2015

Langdell Hall roof, August 10, 2015

What’s the latest work going on up on the roof? Here’s what’s happening at the end of this month:

  • Parapet masonry work from the aerial lifts will continue on the west sides of Langdell Hall at Areeda Hall and will continue daily until the end of next week. The aerial lift will be moving to the east sides of Langdell Hall by Holmes field for the week of August 24. The current plan, weather permitting, is to be completed with aerial lift work by the last week in August.
  • Copper roofing is underway on Areeda Hall and on the Langdell Hall north and south lower roofs and will be completed by the end of next week.
  • Copper roofing is underway at Areeda Hall and will be completed by the end of next week.

Check out the photo in this post to view the progress and contrast the shiny new copper over the Langdell North classroom area with the older green copper still on the main portion of the roof.

Thanks, Heather!

heather betty rubble smart

Heather Pierce-Lopez (center) with Amelia Bingham “Seaweed” and her son

Librarians are used to getting thanks from patrons on a regular basis, but some thanks are extra special. Our own document delivery assistant and librarian extraordinaire Heather Pierce-Lopez recently reported the following meeting:

“Remember that 1665 Indian land deed I found a while back? Well a tribal elder and her son came by to thank me for finding this deed that no one has been able to locate for the last 40 years. I am honored to have met such an amazing woman. She even gave me a signed copy of her book.

“Thanks for letting me be a part of this adventure.”

852 RARE: A Controversial Execution in 1818 Edinburgh

In December 1818, Robert Johnston, age 24, was executed for robbing Mr. John Charles of some £600 in pounds and notes, plus a watch key and chain. This single crime, trial, and execution ignited a swarm of controversy – evidence of which can be found in our collections. We recently acquired a pamphlet, Letter to the Magistrates of Edinburgh … with Regard to the Execution of Robert Johnston, which joins several others in our collection that describe the trial and gruesome execution that followed.

Letter to magistrates

Letter to the magistrates of Edinburgh, 1819, HOLLIS 14401279

Opinion diverged about Johnston and the severity of his punishment. Some noted that Johnston, a 24-year-old carter, had repeatedly been in custody on various charges; in fact, he had only been out a few days before robbing Mr. Charles. Others noted that his parents were “honest and industrious,” and pointed out that Johnston had been thrown out of work due to economic distress in Scotland. These writers thought his only choice was to steal or starve.

All agreed that the punishment – execution by hanging – was severe. Other carters had recently committed crimes in Edinburgh; perhaps local magistrates wanted to make an example of Johnston. Citizens interceded on his behalf, to no avail.

On the day of the execution, a noose was slipped around Johnston’s neck, and he mounted a table, which was supposed to drop suddenly at Johnston’s signal. Unfortunately, the table did not drop completely, leaving him half standing and half suspended, struggling. As the crowd realized he was still alive, they urged the attending magistrate to halt the execution. Soon the crowd threw stones at the magistrate, overpowered the police, cut Johnston down, partially revived him and carried him off. The police eventually recaptured him, dragged him to the station, and continued their attempts to revive him before returning him to the gallows. During all this time Johnston appeared conscious but did not speak.

When the execution resumed and the table dropped once again, Johnston continued to struggle for about 20 minutes before finally expiring. The whole gruesome business lasted almost two hours.

Witnesses agreed on the sequence of events, and all were shocked at the inhumane and error-ridden execution. However, they vehemently disagreed about whether the magistrates exercised their duty to ensure a working scaffold and secure a competent executioner. Some blamed the magistrates; others blamed the crowd (which they called a mob) for cutting Johnston down and thereby prolonging his suffering.

Robert Johnston trial account

Authentic account of the trial … of Robert Johnston, 1819, HOLLIS 4390803

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh; in which the cruel and malicious aspersions of an “eye-witness” are answered, 1819, HOLLIS 4388450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For historians of crime and punishment, it is useful to consult materials like the pamphlets here, which offer multiple perspectives, reminding us that there is often more than one “truth.” These pamphlets also shine a light on issues that concerned the populace and the police nearly two hundred years ago. They show that controversy over the death penalty was, and remains, a recurrent theme in other legal systems as well as our own.

Congrats to the Webby Award-winning Perma.cc!

perma logoWe’re thrilled to share the news that Perma.cc is the 2015 Webby award winner in the law category. Congratulations to all our colleagues who work on Perma.cc!

Perma.cc, created at the HLS Library and powered by libraries around the world, helps scholars, journals and courts create permanent links to the online sources cited in their work, saving them from link rot.

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.

HLS MS 12

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!

Congrats to the Webby-nominated Perma.cc!

Congratulations to our colleagues who work on the Webby Award-nominated Perma.cc! We’re delighted that it’s been nominated in the category of websites: law.

perma logoPerma.cc, powered by libraries, helps scholars, journals and courts create permanent links to the online sources cited in their work.

Love Perma.cc? Vote for it on the Webby Awards website.

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 specialc@law.harvard.edu with your feedback.

Coming soon: a new roof for Langdell Hall!

IMG_7059Close observers may have noticed the scaffolding and yellow clips around the top of Langdell Hall. We’re excited to share the news that the reason for them is that the Library is planning for a new acquisition this summer in the form of a new roof for Langdell Hall. We’re very much looking forward to having a fresh covering to keep both our collection and our patrons well protected.

Construction will begin right after Commencement and is projected to finish around Thanksgiving. As you might guess, there will be some noise disruption involved with this project. As we get closer to the start of the project, we’ll post additional information about noise mitigation measures.

New Library Exhibit: Where Mis’ry Moans

Where Misry Moans for webHistorical & Special Collections is pleased to announce that its new exhibit “‘Where Mis’ry Moans': Four Prison Reformers in 18th & 19th Century England” is now on view in the Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall.

At the dawn of the eighteenth century English prisons were often dark, filthy, and rife with disease and suffering. Oversight was lax and inspections were rare at best. This exhibit focuses on four prison reformers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—John Howard, George Onesiphorus Paul, Elizabeth Fry, and John T. Burt—who worked to make prisons more humane and reformatory.

Curated by Margaret Peachy and Mary Person, it will be on view in the Caspersen Room 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM through April 24, 2015. A companion website to this exhibit can be found here.

 

Plan ahead: HLS Library holiday hours

To help you plan ahead, please be aware of upcoming changes to the Library’s hours due to fall and winter holidays. During Thanksgiving and winter breaks, the library will be completely closed with no 24/7 access, so please make sure to request items from the Depository early and check out or take home from your carrels any print materials you may need during these times!

Thanksgiving

The Library will close at 5pm on Wednesday, November 26 (the reference desk will close at 3pm) and remain closed until Sunday, November 30 at 9am. No 24/7 access will be available.

Fall Reading Period and Exams, December 4-December 20

During the fall reading period and exams, access to the Harvard Law School Library is strictly limited to HLS affiliates. If you require access to specific resources in the our collection during this time, please check in with the Circulation Desk.

Winter Break

The Library will close at 12 noon on Wednesday, December 24 and remain closed until 9am on Saturday, January 3. The reference desk will re-open on Sunday, January 4. Once again, no 24/7 access will be available during this recess.

For a full calendar of our hours, please visit our website.

On behalf of the library, happy holidays, good luck on exams, and have a restful break!