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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.
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.
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:
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!
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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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
Close 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.
Historical & 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.
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!
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.
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!
On July 14, 1789 French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, a prison that served as a symbol of the unjust treatment of the French citizenry by the monarchy, thus sparking the French Revolution. King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were dethroned during the revolution, tried and found guilty of treason, and executed by way of the guillotine.
Historical & Special Collections (HSC) holds many volumes relating to Louis XVI’s trial for those researchers interested in the ultimate demise of France’s last monarch.
One volume, The Trial at Large of Louis XVI. Late King of France. Containing a Most Complete and Authentic Narrative of every Interesting and Important Circumstance Attending the Accusation — Trial, Defence, Sentence — Execution, &c. of this Unfortunate Monarch. (Hollis 004039665) is available online through Making of Modern Law, Trials 1600-1926. HSC has contributed a number of titles to this online resource, which is available to users with a Harvard ID and PIN. Included in this text is King Louis XVI’s defense of his fleeing Paris with his family – the primary impetus of the treason charge. He writes “….the motives which induced me to quit Paris: – They were, the threats and outrages committed again[s]t my family and my[s]elf, and which have been circulated in different publications; and all the[s]e in[s]ults have remained unpuni[s]hed. I thence thought it was neither [s]afe nor proper for me to remain any longer in Paris; but, in quitting the capital, I never had an intention of going out of the kingdom (pg. 20).” The account of Marie Antoinette’s trial (Hollis 013967138) is also available through Making of Modern Law.
Researchers interested in this historical moment can also find two portraits of Chertien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, one of the lawyers to King Louis XVI during his treason trial, in HSC’s visual collections and made available on VIA. Malesherbes came out of retirement in order to defend the King, whom he had served in his younger years. Despite being generally well-liked and respected, Malesherbes also met the same demise as the King and Queen, beheaded at the guillotine in 1794.
We are currently hosting the 2014 CALI Conference for Law School Computing here at Harvard Law School. Before the official conference started, several attendees met on Wednesday, 6/18, for an “Unconference.”
The Unconference agenda was completely attendee-driven: the participants selected topics and then broke off into small groups to discuss them. Topics included:
- Is “Law Practice Technology” Worth Teaching as Part of an Advanced Legal Research Course?
- Flipped Classrooms
- Building Virtual Communities
- Polling Tools
- How Do We Train Faculty to Understand When Multimedia Tools Are Adding Value, When They’re Just Wanting to be “Cool”?
- What Tool has Really Helped a Colleague Teach and Didn’t Demand a Lot of Time?
Check out http://bit.ly/PreCALI for notes from the sessions.
Thank you to the attendees for some great discussions!
Need a study break? Stop by the HLS Library’s Caspersen Room on the fourth floor of Langdell Hall to view our current and soon-to-be-gone exhibits.
Beyond Cambridge: Two Centuries of HLS Faculty Work in and on Africa will close at 5 pm this Friday, April 25.
Harvard Law School Dean, Educator, and Colleague: Celebrating James Vorenberg Through His Papers continues through Commencement 2014.
The Declaration of Independence, generously lent by the family of Robin and Marc (HLS 1984) Wolpow, will be on view through mid-August 2014.
Coming soon: an exhibit of some of the books, manuscripts and broadside posters added to the Library’s Historical & Special Collections, and an exhibit of law-related bobbleheads produced by The Green Bag.
The Caspersen Room is open Monday-Friday 9 to 5. Please visit us soon!