Historical & Special Collections • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

NEW! HLS Library Bicentennial Exhibit Now On View

Collections | Connections  

Stories from the Harvard Law School Library

HLS Bicentennial Exhibit PosterThe Harvard Law School Library’s new exhibit celebrates HLS’s Bicentennial through the stories of some of the Library’s 2 million items and the people behind them. On view are historic photographs, striking rare books and early manuscripts, books published all over the world, fun glimpses of HLS Library history, and even an Awesome Box!

Collections | Connections documents the evolution of the Harvard Law School and its Library in response to the School’s evolving role in relation to society, legal education, and technology. Yet it is the people who make a place. Groups and individuals highlighted throughout this exhibit have cultivated the life and ethos of the Harvard Law School. Learn how the Library preserves this continuing story of the HLS community: faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are moved to question, prepared to reason, and called to act.

The exhibit is arranged around six themes: Keepers of Memory, Global Citizens, Promoting Justice, Supreme Court Clerks and their Justices, Library as Lab, and Preserving Legal Heritage. Curated by many members of the HLS Library, it is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, through June 2018.

852 Rare: An Introduction to our English Manor Roll Collection

This is the first in a series of five blogs about Historical & Special Collections’ English Manor Rolls (1305-1770). HSC was honored to have Eleanor Goerss, Pforzheimer Fellow ’17, with us this summer to perform research on and enhance description of this internationally-important collection, including authoring these posts. Future topics include how to read the manor rolls and what you’ll find, sometimes unexpectedly, in them.

This summer, Harvard Law School Library’s Historical & Special Collections completed a multi-year project to conserve, digitize, and enhance metadata to our collection of manor rolls! Check out the newly updated finding aid, which includes links to digital content for the entire collection, plus corrected and enhanced information for each entry on each roll.

For those of you who aren’t longtime scholars of early English law, you’d be surprised at how much interest you might unknowingly have in the contents of a manor roll. So what follows is for you: the uninitiated but curious. We’ll explain what the finding aid is telling you, how to figure out what the text is about, and and muse on some fun visual treasures you might come across when using the collection.

The finding aid provides the name of the manor, county, type of roll, and date. Most are court rolls, but there are also documents related to manorial accounts, as well as charters, wills, and even a map.

 

Here’s a roll from a court session in 1517 at Haspley with Newbourne Manor in Suffolk. It is in box 8, folder 65 of HLSL’s collection. We chose to leave a margin around each shot so that the images show the irregularities of the rolls, staying as true as possible to the original material.

Here’s a roll from a court session in 1517 at Haspley with Newbourne Manor in Suffolk. It is in box 8, folder 65 of HLSL’s collection. We chose to leave a margin around each shot so that the images show the irregularities of the rolls, staying as true as possible to the original material. Head here for a zoom-able version!

 

The rolls give testimony for the realm of the medieval and early modern English manor court, a local court held by the Lord of a manor for his tenants. An English manor, a swath of territory held by a landlord, accommodated both free tenants who paid rent as well as unfree tenants (villeins) who occupied their land in return for their services to the lord. In medieval and early modern England, unfree tenants did not possess the right to file suit in royal courts, so the lord held his own court, usually in the hall of the manor house. The proceedings of each session were recorded on rolls. Despite the fact that these rolls provide only a terse listing of these court proceedings, a richer and richer picture of peasant life accumulates after reading through a few court sessions. The courtroom served as a space where the lord could control land transactions, but also where he might fine his tenants for damages to land and buildings, or for other infractions such as marrying without a license and milling grain at the wrong mill.

HSC’s collection contains records from a great deal of manors, each of which has its own way of holding court. Next time we’ll give tips on deciphering the rolls, but if you’re yearning to dig deeper now, here are some select resources on our court rolls and manor courts in general:

Professor Liz Kamali’s undergraduate thesis on Harvard’s rolls: Papp, Elizabeth Ann. “Moulton Manor and Its Court, 1306-1418: Crisis and Reaction in a Fourteenth-Century Manor.” 1997.

An introduction to the manor, its court, and historical methodologies: Razi, Zvi, and Richard Michael Smith. Medieval Society and the Manor Court. New York: Clarendon Press, 1996.

852 RARE: Open for Research: The Papers of Stanley S. Surrey

…I doubt that any person alive today has had as close and as varied a relationship with the Internal Revenue Code as I have had. – Surrey, Unpublished Memoir

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the Stanley S. Surrey Papers are now open to researchers. The material dates from 1913 to 1981, and documents Surrey’s exceptional contributions to tax law both as a public servant and as a professor of law. Considered “a dean of the academic tax bar,”[1] Surrey contributed to the field of tax law in many ways. He served as the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, was an active member of many professional organizations including the American Law Institute, and was a Professor of Law at Harvard for thirty years.

Walter Surrey writing to his son, Stanley, on his appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Surrey Papers, box 319, folder 5. Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

Early in his career, Surrey worked as an attorney for the National Recovery Administration (1933-35) and the National Labor Relations Board (1935-37). He then moved on to the U.S. Treasury Department where he worked on the Wartime Revenue Act. After a brief time in the U.S. Naval Reserve (1944-46), Surrey began to teach law at Berkley. It was during his time at Berkley that Surrey became the Chief Reported for the Income Tax Project conducted by the American Law Institute, a project that would last more than a decade. The Income Tax Project resulted in a number of publications addressing issues in the American tax code and have had a lasting influence on tax legislation.

There is a large number of correspondence, drafts, and handwritten notes documenting the American Law Institute Income Tax Project, the Income, Estate and Gift Tax Project and the second Income Tax Project, which Surrey advised on in the 1970s, in the collection. This material demonstrates how tax policy is developed and eventually becomes part of the tax code.

Surrey became a member of Harvard’s Faculty in 1950. As a faculty member he founded Harvard’s Program for International Taxation and served as director of the program from 1953 until 1961 when he was appointed as Assistant Secretary. He later came back to Harvard in 1969. A major portion of the Stanley Surrey Papers is devoted to his time as Assistant Secretary to the Treasury. Surrey kept correspondence, type-written notes, reports and memoranda from his time in the Treasury. He also kept meticulous notes of his daily routine at the Treasury in a professional journal. As Assistant Secretary he also coined the term Tax Expenditure, and was influential in defining the term later in a book co-authored with William C. Warren.

Draft page from “Pathways” on the definition of tax expenditures. Surrey Papers, box 416, folder 8. Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

All of Surrey’s various professional associations from his earliest career as an attorney to his time as the President of the National Tax Association (1979-80), and areas of interest are represented in Surrey’s personal reference files preserved in this collection. Surrey’s extensive personal reference files on issues of national and international taxation contain essays, documents, memoranda, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, reports, testimony, and material sent to him from colleagues for Surrey’s reference in his function as professor, author, and consultant. This file is evidence of Surrey’s lifelong dedication to improving tax policy in every avenue of his career.

The Stanley S. Surrey Papers open to all researchers. Anyone interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections to schedule an appointment.

Posted on behalf of Rachel Parker by Edwin Moloy.

 

[1] “Stanley S. Surrey, 74; Taxation Law Expert”. New York Times. August 28, 1984.

Evidence in Ink

One of the pleasures of cataloging, especially of older books and manuscripts, is coming across unexpected traces of earlier times and lives. Scraps of an early manuscript liturgy or an almanac used in a binding; a series of former owners’ signatures vying for attention on a title page; enigmatic annotations in the margins; or even an eighteenth century butcher’s invoice used as a bookmark. All these are examples of evidence of the unique history contained in any single book or manuscript.

But a copy of at least one early canon law book in the collection—an exhaustive work on the Decretales of Pope Gregory IX printed in 1487-1488—bears evidence of a moment before it was even printed.  It also documents, perhaps, the momentary inattention of a worker in the busy Basel print shop of Johannes Amerbach.  Appearing at the bottom right corner of a page in part 1 is the unmistakable smudge of a fifteenth century ink ball.

Detail from part 1, leaf 2b3r of Niccolò,de’ Tudeschi’s Lectura super V libris Decretalium (Basel, Johannes Amerbach, 1488), copy 1 (Ad T256l 488 H12315), Harvard Law School Library.

In the era of hand-operated printing presses leather ink balls, stuffed with wool and attached to a handle, were used to evenly ink the plates prior to printing. It was hard, repetitive work.

By Jost Amman – “Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln …”, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=207246

Of course, having an ink ball come in contact with paper was not standard procedure. Surely it must have been noticed at some point in the printing process. Perhaps the paper was too costly to discard or the pressure to move the job along was too strong. But whatever the reason, we now have a visible reminder of hand press era technology and a moment of distraction almost 530 years ago.

Archiving Student Life: HLS Community Capture Project

This past semester, Historical & Special Collections (HSC) continued its efforts to collect material documenting student life at HLS. These efforts began in Spring 2016 and our commitment to the project has increased since then, thanks in large part to a Harvard Library S.T. Lee Innovation Grant. Student organizations are a vital part of the HLS community and we hope to capture and preserve as much as we can to help document the impact students have on HLS and support your work!

HSC currently holds only a few student organizations’ records, along with a variety of student organization newsletters and event flyers. In order to capture today’s campus activities, we need to think more broadly about collecting student-created material. Today, that broad mindset involves grappling with the vulnerability of digital material. Building relationships with both individuals and the organizations (that means you!) that create digital content is urgent if we hope to help preserve this material for the future.

Harvard Law School Women's History Month calendar, March 1994, HLS Ephemera Collection, box 4, folder 6

Women’s Law Association (WLA) Women’s History Month calendar, March 1994, HLS Ephemera Collection, Box 4, Folder 6

With funding made possible by the S.T. Lee Innovation Grants, Historical & Special Collections is investigating better methods for collecting born digital material from student organizations through the HLS Community Capture Project. A part-time project assistant started working with us in March of this year, which has enabled us to offer flexible meeting times with student organization leaders outside of the traditional 9 to 5. So far, we have talked to close to 30 student leaders about preserving student organization material and have created a LibGuide that brings together much of our existing student-created content. [Read More]

852 RARE: New Exhibit — Kids in the Collection: Prison, Work, and Play

Most of the material in Historical & Special Collections is rooted in the world of adults, but children do make appearances, sometimes in unexpected ways. There are traces of the childhood experiences in HLS faculty papers, school report cards, and letters sent home from camp.

A young Paul Freund wearing a baker’s costume, 1911
Photograph postcard, 13.7 x 8.7 cm
Paul Freund Visual Materials, ca. 1911-1988
Record ID: olvwork368707

Not all is light-hearted, however, as seen in grim broadsides detailing violent crimes where children were the victims; sobering reports of the inner workings of a Massachusetts reform school; and images of toddlers raised in prison by their incarcerated mothers in nineteenth century England. Also showcased is some of the work undertaken by HLS students and faculty on behalf of children and families in Massachusetts and across the United States. The exhibit draws on a variety of media: manuscript collections, printed works, photographs, and children’s art work, dating from the late-eighteenth century through the twentieth century.

Image from The criminal prisons of London and scenes of prison life, by Henry Mayhew and John Binny (London, 1862)

This exhibit was curated by Jane Kelly and Mary Person of Historical & Special Collections. It will be on view in the Caspersen Room from April through July 2017 with online addenda at bit.ly/HSCexhibit.

852 RARE: Learned Hand’s Tailor

Billings Learned Hand (1872-1961): Distinguished alumnus of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Chief Judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. One of the twentieth century’s most noted jurists …

… and a secret fashionista.

The Harvard Law School Library’s Historical & Special Collections has the papers of Judge Hand. One of our most heavily used collections, it contains a trove of information about law, lawyers, and life in its hundreds of boxes encompassing some 120 feet of material. You might expect to encounter correspondence from famous lawyers, judges, and politicians; legal opinions; and records of Judge Hand’s professional and social activities: it’s all there. But tucked away in Box 57 are three folders of correspondence between him and the staff of Alfred Webb Miles, custom tailors doing business at 12 Brook Street near Savile Row and Hanover Square in the heart of London.

Alfred Webb Miles Trade Card

Alfred Webb Miles & Co. Trade and Measurements Card, Learned Hand Papers, HOLLIS 601605, Box 57, folder 39.

Folder 39 reveals an engaged correspondence from a man who took his tailoring seriously. In these days of fast fashion and online shopping delivered overnight, it’s instructive to learn how men of a particular professional and social class bought their clothes. In response to a 1934 request from Judge Hand, Alfred Webb Miles sent a booklet of styles and several fabric swatches suitable for “light summer woolen suits.”

AWM Fashion Book

Alfred Webb Miles Fashion Book (undated; ca. 1934)

Judge Hand circled model number 2, a straight, single-breasted style, and marked three swatches as his choices number 1, 2, and 3.

AWM Suit Selections

Alfred Webb Miles Suit Selections (ca. 1934)

His chosen fabric is a fine black and white weave with a dashing streak of electric blue running through it:

Fabric Swatch

Learned Hand’s number 1 fabric choice (ca. 1934)

When placing his order in a letter dated May 21, 1934, the 62-year-old judge had, shall we say, a few requests: “The trousers are to be made with cuffs, a straight back, two hip pockets and a small front pocket on the right side of the band; suspender buttons on the outside, but loops for a belt. In the jacket, a ticket pocket inside the right hand side pocket, and two inside breast pockets, as well as one outside.”

Initial Order

Learned Hand’s Initial Order to Alfred Webb Miles & Co., May 21, 1934

Invoice

Alfred Webb Miles Invoice to Learned Hand, June 15, 1934

Sadly, the relationship soured soon thereafter. Hand wrote in a letter dated 1935 (not shown) that a recent suit had arrived with the chest and armholes cut too tightly. He directed the tailors to take note of his measurements on file and cut the next suit jacket with more room.

It was not to be. In a letter dated June 1, 1936, Judge Hand ended his 25-year relationship with Alfred Webb Miles & Co.: “… I particularly asked you this time to give me more room under the arms and to make the coat larger around the chest. Your cutter has apparently paid no attention whatever to these instructions. … There is of course no inducement to have any more made if my orders cannot be better observed.”

Complaint Letter

Letter of complaint from Learned Hand to Alfred Webb Miles & Co., June 1, 1936

While the parties exchanged a couple more cordial letters, it appears that Judge Hand never bought another suit from Alfred Webb Miles & Co. Other folders in the collection show that he did business with London tailors Meyer & Mortimer from 1925-1938, and again from 1941-1951.

This is the fun of archival research: you never know what the next unexpected detour will be. We hope you visit Historical & Special Collections or another archive, and see what hidden treasures you discover!

Justice Scalia’s papers donated to HLS Library–what’s next?

Blog post by Meg Kribble, Research Librarian & Outreach Coordinator; Ed Moloy, Curator of Modern Manuscripts and Archives; and Jessica Farrell, Curator of Digital Collections.

We are very excited about the news that the family of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (HLS, ’60) will donate his Papers to the HLS Library.

It’s an honor for any library to be selected to preserve and make accessible the papers of a Supreme Court Justice, and we are grateful to the Scalia family for selecting the HLS Library. We look forward to sharing periodic updates on our progress and to making the collection available over the years to come.

Portrait of Justice Antonin Scalia by Nelson Shanks

Because the Supreme Court does not display portraits of sitting justices, Justice Scalia’s official portrait by Nelson Shanks resided in our Reading Room from 2008 until his death, when it was returned to the Court.

What happens next?

Justice Scalia served on the Court for nearly three decades. Prior to that, he practiced law, taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, and served as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Throughout his career, he gave speeches, wrote articles, and received awards. Materials from all of these activities will likely be included in the collection.

Communication methods evolved over the course of the Justice’s career to include documents created on computers as well as traditional print materials. While his papers aren’t the first papers of a Supreme Court Justice to include electronic records, this will be the first time electronic records will be transferred from the Supreme Court to an archive. As you can see, Justice Scalia’s papers, like those of other Supreme Court Justices, are likely to be a large, complex collection that will take years to process.

Many papers of Supreme Court Justices come with restrictions on when they may be made accessible to researchers; Justice Scalia’s are no different. You can compare the restrictions on his papers (mentioned in the article link above) with the restrictions of some of his predecessors on the Court in Susan David deMaine and Benjamin J. Keele’s visual presentation, Access to Justice? A Study of Access Restrictions on the Papers of U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

What’s involved in processing a collection of this magnitude?

The first step is transferring the collection, both physically and electronically.

The method of physical transfer always depends on what’s in the collection–general movers and sometimes special art movers may be involved. Electronic material is either transferred over a secure connection using software that encrypts, virus checks, and establishes data integrity for the files; or it is sent physically in the form of a hard drive or whole device, such as a computer or tablet. This data is stored in a highly secure environment especially before a survey has been conducted to identify types and quantity of sensitive data that exist.

As for the processing itself, while some details are changing to adapt to the challenges of electronic files, the fundamental process remains unchanged:

  • First, a survey is done that provides an overview of a collection’s content. For electronic files, the survey is conducted using digital forensics techniques borrowed from the law enforcement community. Information about the files is extracted without altering the files in any way. If the content is on physical media, data is extracted using an arsenal of adapters and write-blockers.
  • In the next step, the survey information informs how a collection will be arranged, typically by broad record group (series) such as “correspondence” or “teaching material.” Digital forensics software helps identify topics across the electronic material without the need for opening individual files.
  • Arrangement of folders–electronic and physical–takes place guided by the established arrangement’s organizational structure.
  • During arrangement, some material is restricted or redacted based on the agreement with the donor, university records policies, and/or privacy concerns identified by the archivist. Again, for electronic material, software aids this process.
  • A finding aid is produced describing the scope and content of the collection, biographical information about the creator, information about each series, and an inventory typically broken down to the box and folder level. Researchers use finding aids to guide them to material relevant to their work.
  • A HOLLIS (Harvard Library catalog) record is created, which links to the finding aid. Digital content is deposited into Harvard’s Digital Repository Service (DRS) for long-term digital preservation and access. For files that can be released to the public, access links are included in the finding aid.

While you’re waiting for the year 2020, when Justice Scalia’s papers begin to become available, we encourage you to learn about the other collections of Supreme Court Justices that the HLS Library holds:

  • Louis D. Brandeis (HLS class of 1877), Papers, 1881-1966 Finding Aid
  • Opinions of Benjamin R. Curtis (HLS class of 1831), 1858-1860 HOLLIS (Contains opinions of Curtis on a variety of topics some of which were made outside of his position on the bench. Also contains some correspondence to him requesting his opinion on different issues.)
  • Felix Frankfurter (HLS class of 1906), Papers, 1900-1965 Finding Aid
  • The John G. Palfrey collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Papers, 1715-1938 Finding Aid | Digital Suite
  • Joseph Story (HLS Dane Professor of Law, 1829-1845), Papers, 1796-1844 Finding Aid | Digital Suite

852 RARE: Guest Blog – Molding the Legal Mind: The Notebooks of Harvard Law Students

Many of us would shudder to imagine a researcher 100 years from now poring over our college lecture notes, scribbled in spiral-bound notebooks or, more likely, typed up in hundreds of sporadically organized .docx files. Historical & Special Collections at the Harvard Law School Library has been doing just that, cataloging a collection of over 250 students’ class notebooks amounting to hundreds of volumes. Dating from approximately 1860 to 1970, the collection represents an era that encompassed some of the most formative decades of the Law School’s curriculum and reputation. The Class Notes Collection, now fully cataloged for the first time, should be of great interest to anyone working on legal history, legal education, or the history of Harvard Law School itself.

View of spines of volumes of class notes.

Miscellaneous class notes volumes

Page of class notes in black and red ink taken during lectures on trusts

Page from the class notes of Eliot Harlow Robinson taken from lectures on trusts given at the Harvard Law School by James Barr Ames, 1907-1908
HOLLIS 14778115

The bulk of the collection takes the form of neatly homogeneous, crimson-leather-bound notebooks purchased from the Harvard Coop and inscribed on the inner cover with students’ names, local addresses, and desk numbers. “Louis L. Jaffe, 3 Perkins Hall,” one notebook reads. “3L, 1927-28. Property.” Many of the students’ names sound antiquated and (to this author’s ear) aristocratic; with a single exception, all are male. Case law is written on transparent onionskin sheets the size and shape of Post-Its and pasted in on top of lecture notes; red ink is typically used to underline and summarize key arguments in the margins. One gets the impression of a disciplined and uniform method of note-taking, taught from an early age, which gradually fell away after the Second World War and was abandoned as standard practice by the 1960s.

 

 

 

Detail of page of handwritten notes in blue and red ink. At the top of the page is written "Wolf vs the American Trust and Savings Bank

Detail of a page of class notes of Paul Cleveland
taken during the second year course “Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes” taught by Morton Campbell, 1931-1932
HOLLIS 14453392

While the notebooks have the outward appearance of uniformity, within, they attest to rich personal histories. Exam prompts, holiday cards, and even the occasional love letter are tucked between their pages. Current law students may find comfort in the near ubiquity of question marks and crossed-out phrases (as well as large splotches of ink). Some are covered in doodles, caricatures, and exhortations (“To hell with Beale!” writes Chauncey Craven Hackett (LL.B. 1906) in his 1905 notes on Equity, taught by Beale), while others suggest great discipline and organization, such as the tidy script and thorough indexing of future HLS professor Austin Wakeman Scott (1884-1981). Many of the notebooks were donated to the library by graduates’ children and grandchildren, and some have been carefully typed up and bound in display volumes. Notable legal minds represented in this collection include Zechariah Chafee (1885-1957), E. Merrick Dodd (1888-1951), Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965), Paul Freund (1908-1992), and David Charny (1955-2000). Their class notes provide valuable and perhaps otherwise inaccessible windows into their formative years as students and thinkers.

Open volume of handwritten notes in blue and black ink. On the right side is printed advertisement from Burke & Co. Tailors

Detail of a page of class notes of Manley Ottmer Hudson, 1907-1910
HOLLIS 2004707

The collection should also be very useful to the study of legal curriculum and its development across the twentieth century. While the 1L course load of Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law has remained largely unchanged since the nineteenth century, a proliferation of electives can be observed beginning in the 1960s, yielding Soviet Law, Antitrust Law, Psychoanalytic Theory and Legal Assumptions, even a class taught by Henry Kissinger on National Security Policy in 1967. From this collection one can learn how Justice Stephen Breyer taught his class on Antitrust Law, or how Derek Bok taught Economic Regulation, through the eyes of their students. The pressures of US history are also apparent, from the cluster of deaths, withdrawals, and hastily rearranged course schedules during World War II, to notes on segregation, the KKK, and Communism in the 1940s and 1950s.

Detail of handwritten page of notes at top of page is written "Commentaries on the Laws of England Book 2nd"

Detail of a page of class notes of John Willard Bickford, 1864-1865
HOLLIS 2594561
Bickford was from Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He entered Harvard Law School in 1865 but his career was ended when he drowned in the Charles River on June 26, 1866.

It is the otherwise anonymous, little-heard voices of HLS students across the years that form the bulk of the collection—studying for their exams, trying to remember their locker codes, and forging the opinions that have shaped legal discourse across the last two centuries. We encourage students, faculty, and researchers to come see for themselves what has changed—and what has remained the same—about the studying and teaching of law at Harvard since the late nineteenth century.

Georgia Henley is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, finishing a dissertation on the transmission of historical texts and manuscripts between England and Wales in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. She works part-time in Historical & Special Collections at the Harvard Law School Library.

Note: For now, the easiest way to see the entire collection is in HOLLIS Classic. Under search type select “Other call number” and search for “Class Notes Collection”.

852 RARE: Justice Frankfurter talks criminal justice, legal education, and the citizen lawyer in a recently-digitized video

 

Recorded audio and moving images have been part of our cultural history for over a century now, and over the years Harvard Law School’s Historical & Special Collections has amassed thousands of audiovisual artifacts related to legal history and curriculum in the United States and beyond. These types of media degrade relatively quickly, and can become obsolete when their players are no longer being produced. Even the DVD-R, a format developed barely 15 years ago – “new” if considered within the context of the long arc of preservable culture – is only expected to have a lifespan of 5 to 20 years before its contents are no longer readable. For comparison, HSC’s oldest item is a komonjo dated 1158 that (with proper housing, temperature, humidity control, security, and standard conservation intervention) is still thriving today, in a format that isn’t obsolete (rice paper).

In the interest of both mitigating these risks to ongoing preservation and providing access to more dynamic digital material for researchers, HSC is currently undergoing a long-term project to reformat our audiovisual collection. Many gems have been found already, but one in particular has stood out for this author: A Lawyer’s Place in Our Society, wherein Justice Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) is interviewed by Prof. Paul A. Freund (1908-1992), recorded on 16mm film in the early 1960s and transferred later to u-matic tape, the copy from which the digital transfer was made. Paul Freund taught at Harvard Law School, focusing on constitutional law and conflict of laws, from 1939 until his retirement from teaching in 1976. Justice Frankfurter graduated from HLS in 1906, taught here from 1914-1939, and served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1939-1962.

The two were close friends, and it’s evidenced by their comfortable and well-articulated conversation. Justice Frankfurter’s thoughts often circle back to some common themes. He believes very much that the lawyer should also be a civic leader, attributing this requirement to the changing nature of the law: as law and government historically expands into affecting everyday lives, the lawyer increasingly needs to be an active citizen. Both Freund and Frankfurter share the opinion that great lawyers shall be exceptionally well-read (because “even with the greatest breadth of personal experience, it’s infinitesimal compared with the accumulated experience of mankind, and the accumulated experience of mankind is predominantly contained in the covers of books,” [25:00]) and involved in many activities outside of the field of law.

In addition to unsurprising homages to Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) and Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), Frankfurter goes on at length about the influence that his early mentor, Henry L. Stimson, had on him. Through his work with the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he learned, “first and foremost, a sense of the deep responsibilities of all those who are concerned with the administration of the criminal law – the awfulness of the instruments by which men may lose their liberties and sometimes lose their lives as the result of a process of law” (28:00). Stimson would have preferred for search warrants to only be issued by a judicial officer, but absent that reality, he had his assistants accompany officers enforcing large search and seizure operations to ensure that they adhered strictly to the warrant and seized only the property that was explicitly described.

It’s quite extraordinary to see Frankfurter on film, born in the 19th century and speaking to us now. Though the interview was conducted near the end of his career and after the deaths of Holmes, Brandeis, and Stimson, it is stirring to imagine that his remarks are not speculation or even historic research based in their archives, but come from actual experiences with those towering legal figures that mentored him and significantly impacted American law. Check out the full video for yourself above, and stay tuned to Et Seq for more historic AV gems.

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