Historical & Special Collections •

852 RARE: Harvard, Al Brown, and the Wickersham Commission

In May 1929, President Herbert Hoover formed the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, more commonly known as the United States Wickersham Commission (after the chairman, George W. Wickersham) and charged its members with studying the problem of the enforcement of laws – with special attention to be given to the problems and abuses stemming from the Prohibition laws. (Prohibition was enacted under the Volstead Act and lasted from 1920 – 1933.)

Detail of Prohibition Map by Stanley Shirk United States Wickersham Commission Records, box 1-3

Detail of Prohibition Map
by Stanley Shirk
United States Wickersham Commission Records, box 1-3

The United States Wickersham Commission Records, 1928-1931, part of Historical & Special Collections at the Harvard Law Library, contains correspondence, reports, and collected research materials. Examples of research material include government circulars with titles like, “How to Take Fingerprints” and the “Effect of Prohibition Law on Workers and Families.”

Of course, when most people think of Prohibition, they think of gangsters and the most famous gangster of the day was Al Capone. He is mentioned (by his alias, Al Brown) in a March 1927 confidential letter written by two Special Agents to the Treasury Department in which they outline possible corruption among Prohibition agents. They noted, “…keeping the place under surveillance… and also the license number of the automobiles used by gangsters associated with Al Brown…”. In May 1932, Al Capone was sent to a federal prison in Georgia to serve 11 years for tax evasion.

Detail from August 12, 1927 report United States Wickersham Commission Records box 1-3

Detail from August 12, 1927 report
United States Wickersham Commission Records
box 1-3

The investigative work of the Commission was both broad and comprehensive. An example of this is a report sent to Wickersham that showed the extent to which Prohibition was affecting drinking among college undergraduates. Harvard was included in this report, which noted that Prohibition had little effect on the drinking habits of undergraduates.

The Law Library also holds the Papers of Miriam Van Waters who was asked by the Commission to make a study of juvenile delinquency. Other collections containing research on this topic include the Papers of Sheldon Glueck and Papers of Eleanor T. and Sheldon Glueck.

852 RARE – Spanning the Centuries: An Exhibit of Recent Acquisitions, 1579–1868

With a vast and rich collection of materials spanning ten centuries, Historical & Special Collections (HSC), in the Harvard Law School Library, is a treasure trove for those interested in tracing the history and development of the law, legal education, law practice, and the history of Harvard Law School. Part of HSC’s mission is to collect these materials in a wide variety of formats, including printed books, handwritten manuscripts, paper and electronic documents, portraits, photographs, drawings, and artifacts. Another key part of our mission is to preserve these materials and make them freely available for research through cataloging, processing, and digitization.

On view are some of our recent acquisitions. Case 1 showcases books and bound manuscripts that provide clues about who owned them and how they were used, while Case 2 features the latest additions to our true crime collections.

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck, Historical & Special Collections. It will be on view through August 22, 2014 in the Caspersen Room, Langdell Hall, weekdays 9 to 5.

HLS Library Exhibit News

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!


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.

852 Rare: The Fainwood

There are often times when items found in Historical & Special Collections (HSC) have little or no explanation, but the mystifying nature of these discoveries can be part of what makes them so delightful and, sometimes, so bizarre. The image of “The Fainwood” shown below comes from the 1977 Harvard Law School Yearbook and presents us with an eclectic mix of law students, pets, and assorted props.

The Fainwood

The Fainwood, 1977. Featuring Lily, Olivia, Mag, Fig T. Dog, and Ha-Shi.

The Fainwood is listed in the yearbook with other student activities, which in 1977 ranged from the Law Review and Chicano Law Students Association to social groups including the Friday Afternoon Club and Trivia Contest group. The Fainwood is simply described in the yearbook as “A tradition of gracious living since the Mesozoic era” and, gracious or not, is notable for highlighting its non-human residents.

This image is part of the Photographs of HLS Students Collection, which is one small piece of over fifty-thousand prints and photographs held by HSC. Additionally, HSC boasts an impressive collection of legal portraits. Over three hundred paintings and sculptures of significant figures in Anglo-American legal history make up the Legal Portrait Collection, and among these are a number of portraits that also feature dogs.

Robert Cullen, 1742-1810. Scottish judge. olvwork277082

Robert Cullen, 1742-1810. Scottish judge. olvwork277082

Thomas Rymer, 1641-1713. English historiographer royal. olvwork245790

Thomas Rymer, 1641-1713. English historiographer royal. olvwork245790

Animals appeared in Gothic and early Renaissance paintings, and dogs eventually began to appear regularly in European portraiture in the 15th and 16th centuries. Over time, the presence of dogs in portraits became less a symbol of loyalty and fidelity and more a fashion accessory or representation of a specific and cherished pet.[1]

The engravings seen at right, left, and below highlight a few legal figures with their canine companions.

Though the image of the Fainwood raises far more questions than it answers, we can only hope that the students in the photograph have gone on to be not only dedicated lawyers but also devoted pet owners!

Sir Thomas More, 1478-1535. English lawyer, social philosopher, author, and statesman. olvwork204258

Sir Thomas More, 1478-1535. English lawyer, social philosopher, author, and statesman. olvwork204258

Sir James Manfield

Sir James Manfield, 1733-1821. British lawyer, judge, and politician. olvwork203507











[1] Gibson, Robin. The Face in the Corner: Animals in Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications, 1998.