Harvard Law School Library News •

Learn about Caselaw Access Project on the radio!

Two weeks ago, WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman and crew paid us a visit to record a segment on our Caselaw Access Project (CAP), which will make all U.S. case law freely accessible online. You may have heard the result this morning.

If you missed it or you’d like a replay, you can catch the story on WBUR’s website. Although the transcript appears in print along with some photos, we recommend listening to get the experience of what the process sounds like as well looks like!

Learn more about the Caselaw Access Project from our past CAP posts or our Library Innovation Law website.

 

852 RARE: Games People Play*

Believe it or not, Historical & Special Collections is home to some law-related games, including playing cards and materials created to help students learn the law. This set of educational cards, published in Halle, Germany in 1709, was intended to teach students civil law.

Civil Law Playing Cards

Chartae Iusoriae Juridicae (Halle, 1709), HOLLIS 3706209.

Our set consists of 34 cards, numbered 2 through 35. Each card contains several principles of civil law, written in Latin. The principles are numbered 5 through 194. It’s too bad the first card is missing from our set! Each card has been backed with marbled paper, and the whole set fits into a papier mâché box, also covered with marbled paper.

Case and Playing Cards

Case and Playing Cards, HOLLIS 3706209.

There is an eight-page instruction booklet, written in German, bound into marbled paper wrappers that match the playing cards. Students could use the cards as simple flash cards for self-study, or gather with a group of fellow students for a scintillating round of play. Here are a few excerpts from the instructions, translated by Jennifer Allison, an HLSL Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian:

  1. Those who would like to familiarize themselves with these laws and repeat them at will / must start by learning the first law on a card / tam quoad numerum, quam quoad sensum, and discuss it with their fellow players / who do the same thing.
  2. Once this has happened / they both, or also four, five, and six [people] could … / sit together / shuffle the cards / and deal them out to each player.
  3. At this point, the person who received the first card starts / by asking his neighbor a question about one of the cards in his hand e.g. ex fol 8. An possessor rerum immobilium satisdare teneatur? If this person answers / quod sic; he has answered incorrectly and must take the card / and must read … out loud from it / so that the other players, ex auditu, can be informed of the law. …
Instruction Booklet

Instruction Booklet, HOLLIS 3706209.

Let’s hope they were drinking lots of beer. Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder that legal study aids – and the market for them – have been around for a long time. Good luck in your law school studies, whichever study method you choose!

*with apologies to Eric Berne

852 Rare: Preserving Digital Media at HLS: First Steps

Whether you’re familiar with archives or not, unless you work in one all day you might think of them as mysterious locked rooms full of old (dare I say, “dusty”) books with intricate bindings, manuscripts crafted hundreds of years ago in no-longer-spoken tongues and script, and artifacts once owned by famous people. HLS Library’s Historical and Special Collections does contain “treasures” like these but a much larger portion of our collection is made up of manuscripts that tell the stories of the lives of legal scholars, lawyers, and judges, regardless of fame or fortune. These items make long physical journeys from someone’s home or office through archivists’ hands, workspaces, and many other processes before finally being ready for access by our researchers.

But digital media has turned traditional archiving on its head. With formats and technology evolving much faster than the technology of papermaking and bookbinding, how do we preserve today’s records? Over the past 5 years, we have been building a program that will support the imminent inundation of digital records and allow us to be more nimble through new practices such as on-demand collecting. We already house an array of historic digital media, such as floppy disks, computers and laptops containing twenty or thirty-year-old hard drives, zip disks, files on CDs, and much more.

Image collage of media from a recent acquisition.

A few pieces of media from a recent acquisition. Clockwise, starting top left: HP Omnibook, 1997; La Cie external hard drive, 1994; HP OmniBook’s internal hard drive, 1997; Apple internal hard drive and its laptop computer, ca. 1994; IBM ThinkPad and its internal hard drive, 2004.

To preserve these, we use digital forensics techniques (yes, similar to what law enforcement units do in a criminal investigation!) to safely transfer files off of obsolete media and stabilize them on a secure server space managed by HLS ITS. We have an array of equipment to read the media, such as 3.5” floppy controllers and an UltraDock writeblocker that connects to over 10 different types of media such as internal hard drives and SD memory cards. We have a computer equipped with the Linux-based open-source BitCurator environment to extract metadata and perform many other activities on the disks we’ve stabilized. We recently added a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device Laptop (FRED-L) to our arsenal in anticipation of going out into the field and imaging media straight from donors’ offices or homes, without having to bring obsolete media into the archives at all (yes, I’m sorry to tell you, but that floppy disk is going to be unreadable someday whether you’ve got a working drive for it or not!).

FRED-L and UltraKit

FRED-L and UltraKit

But, all of this actually only solves the FIRST step of archiving – transferring files to the archive. A bit more complicated than going to an office to pick up boxes, but also pretty fun. We are currently working on the rest of the workflow – extracting files from stabilized disk images, migrating them to readable formats (WordPerfect for DOS, anyone?), and making them available through our finding aids in OASIS. I’ll be sharing more about these processes and milestones as we reach them, so come back to Et Seq for more digital preservation 852 Rare posts!

March 10: The Magna Carta Lectures … and lunch!

Help us celebrate the closing of the Harvard Law School Library’s exhibit, One Text, Sixteen Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library, by joining us for a program on Magna Carta through the ages. A light lunch will be served, but due to space limitations attendance is limited to 45.

Thursday, March 10, 2016, Noon – 1:30 pm, Caspersen Room, HLS Library, Langdell Hall, 4th floor

Program:

Magna Carta in the Fourteenth Century: From Law to Myth? Charles Donahue, Paul A. Freund Professor of Law, HLS

The Interpretation of Magna Carta in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries. Stephen White, Visiting Professor of History, Harvard University

Moderator: Elizabeth Papp Kamali, Assistant Professor of Law, HLS

poster magna carta lectures-blog

Sponsored by the HLS Library and the Harvard Committee on Medieval Studies.

Caselaw Access Project: What We’re Finding in the Case Reports

The HLS Library’s Caselaw Access Project aims to provide free online access to our Library’s entire collection of U.S. court decisions. Every day we’re transforming over 100,000 pages into digital images. Eventually those images will become machine-readable text that lawyers, citizens, researchers and developers of all stripes will be able to access and use.

But along the way we’re making some amazing discoveries in the centuries-old print material we’re digitizing. The latest?

Take a look at what Digital Projects Archivist Kerri Fleming found in this Reporter’s Note from Volume 32 of the Georgia Reports, which includes cases decided in 1861:

 

FTL GA Case Reporter 1861

Reporter’s Note from volume 32 of the Georgia Reports (1861). (click image to enlarge)

The anonymous Reporter of Decisions explained in striking detail why the volume’s publication was delayed until 1869: “Early in 1862, the Reporter entered the military service of the Confederate States, and continued therein until he was disabled. … During the war, the house of the Reporter was burned, and his books and papers, including many of the cases in original manuscript, were destroyed. The printed part of the volume was destroyed with the Printing House in the city of Atlanta. … The close of the war, found the Reporter, like thousands of his fellow-countrymen, poor and destitute …  Sixty-five cases in this volume were destroyed, and had to be gotten up anew … ”

This extraordinary note highlights not only the historical and geographical context in which these decisions were published but also the dedication and professionalism of Reporters of Decisions, who continue their important public service today.

The Harvard Law School Library’s collection of manuscript and printed case reports spans the centuries from 1268 to the present, and includes jurisdictions around the world. As our work on the Caselaw Access Project progresses and we continue to rediscover the print materials making this digital project possible, we hope to share more finds like this!

Post contributed by Kerri Fleming and Adam Ziegler. Post edited 8/30/2016 to update the name of the project.

Work in the Main Reading Room, January 7, 2016

Work will take place in the main Reading Room on Thursday, January 7, 2016, between 8am and 5pm. We will try to keep disturbances to a minimum. However, there may be occasional noise disruption and staff will need access to many of the study carrels on the south side of the room. Signs will be posted on the corresponding carrels. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.

Work in the Main Reading Room, December 21, 2015

Over winter break portions of the main Reading Room will be painted. Preparations for this project will take place Monday, December 21, 2015, from 8am to 5pm. We will work to keep disturbances to a minimum. However, there may be occasional noise disruption and staff will need access to several of the study carrels. Signs will be posted on the corresponding carrels. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.

Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Library

As you may know, Suzanne Wones, Harvard Law School Library’s Executive Director, has accepted a new position as the Director of Library Digital Strategies and Innovations for the Harvard Library. We are sad to see her go, but excited for her as well and wish her all the best!

With her imminent departure, we are looking for an Executive Director for HLSL and we encourage qualified candidates to consider applying. The successful candidate will be responsible for working closely with the Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources to set service, collection, and budgetary priorities for the library. The Executive Director also directs all of the library’s day-to-day operations, including overseeing departments focused on research services, faculty support, academic technology, collection development, and empirical services. In partnership with the Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources and the Director of the Library Innovation Lab, this individual will also set the agenda for the new design and development projects undertaken by the Library Innovation Lab. This is an exciting position that is perfect for someone who is interested in working on a wide range of projects that have an impact on the HLS faculty, students, and staff as well as the world beyond our campus.

If you think that you would be a strong candidate for this position, you can read more about it in the official job description and apply online. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for further information.

852 RARE: MASS(achusetts) Incarceration During the Nineteenth Century

Recently, an intriguing folder containing six broadsides came to light in Historical & Special Collections. These are very different from our largest collection of broadsides, which are English trial and execution broadsides (sometimes referred to as “dying speeches”) printed for popular consumption.

1827 & 1828

These are single sheet Annual report[s] of the convicts in the Massachusetts State Prison their employment, &c., with a correct view of the expenses and income of the Institution … for the years 1823-1828 and it turns out they’re very rare. According to WorldCat only the American Antiquarian Society and the Massachusetts Historical Society have some of the issues. For those whose libraries subscribe to Readex’s “America’s Historical Imprints”, five of the reports are available digitally as part of “American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1”.

The state prison, located in the Charlestown section of Boston was built in 1805. With the completion of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Concord, in 1878, the prison population of the Charlestown prison declined. Among its later and better known inmates were Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, executed there in August 1927.

1825 close up

Detail of the 1825 report

The reports, signed by wardens Gamaliel Bradford (1823) and Thomas Harris (1824-1828), are statistical in nature and models of succinctness. While at first glance they may seem a bit dry, one can glean a great deal of information from them, including all of the prison’s expenses and income; the crimes for which inmates were imprisoned, ages, and lengths of sentences; and their prison employment. During this many period prisoners were engaged in cutting and transporting stone, working in the prison hospital, and picking oakum. Others were let out to contractors as cabinet and brush makers, as well as other skilled labor. The north wing built in 1828, was probably the “new prison” referred to in the reports starting in 1826 when 26 of the 313 current prisoners were working on its construction.

1827 close up

Detail of the 1827 report

Penciled notes on the Library’s copies of these broadsides provide some evidence of their provenance, and the piecemeal fashion in which they were acquired. The 1823 issue was a gift to the Harvard College Library from “Arthur G. Sedgwick of Cambridge” in November 1875–most likely the lawyer and writer who graduated Harvard College in 1864 and earned his LL.B. at the Law School in 1866. Sedgwick moved to New York City in 1875 to continue practicing law after several years in Boston. Perhaps his donation to the College was the result of office-cleaning in preparation for his move?

The back of the 1824 issue bears the signature of “Hon. Levi Thaxter.”

This may be lawyer Levi Lincoln Thaxter (Harvard College 1843, Harvard Law School 1845) who was married to poet and writer Celia Thaxter. “Gratis” is penciled on the front, so it was evidently a gift, but it is unclear from whom.

52256954 Sanborn

Harvard University – Harvard University Archives / Class Album. Class of 1855. HUD 255.704.1, Harvard University Archives

The 1825 and 1826 annual reports were also gifts, in 1865, of Frank B. Sanborn, Harvard College 1855. Here he is pictured in his Class album (HOLLIS 7505074).

The source of the 1827 and 1828 issues remains a mystery. A penciled note reads simply “no date of reception.” All six were transferred from the College Library to the Law School Library in June 1924, possibly in a batch described in the Law Library’s accession book as merely “Miscellaneous material”. These broadsides and their miscellaneous collection of facts and figures offer an intriguing glimpse into the state of Massachusetts prisons in the early nineteenth century. We are thankful to the Harvard College alumni who thought to give these interesting documents to their alma mater and to the library professionals who over the years have sought to preserve them. And given recent interest and concern about prisons and mass incarceration, both nationally and locally, these nearly 200 year old reports are an especially timely find.

852 RARE – New Exhibit! One Text, Sixteen Manuscripts: Magna Carta at the Harvard Law School Library

Magna Carta posterFirst written in 1215, the ideas of liberty and human rights contained in and derived from England’s Magna Carta (the Great Charter) have persisted for 800 years. They have provided inspiration for developments in law now enshrined in constitutions and treaties across the world. The survival and resonance of those ideas is reflected in the manuscripts in this exhibit.

The Harvard Law School Library owns close to 30 manuscript copies of Magna Carta; a few of our favorites are presented here. Tangible items like these connect us with the past and allow us to approach the people who created, used and treasured these documents. Each manuscript tells a different story and raises many questions.

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Mindy Kent, HLS Library. It is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room through March 11, 2016. An online companion to the exhibit is available. All our manuscript Magna Cartas have been digitized and may be viewed online.