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.


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!

New e-Resources for March 2015

The Harvard Library has an astounding number of resources, with new titles coming in every day! For help efficiently navigating it all, make an appointment to meet with a librarian or contact the Reference Desk.

Among our newest e-resources:

Note: “about” descriptions are taken from the resources themselves.

ABIA Online Index of South and Southeast Asian Art and Archeology

About: ABIA is the only specialist academic in-depth bibliography dedicated to South and Southeast Asian prehistory, archaeology of the historical period, art, crafts and architecture (from early down to contemporary), inscriptions and palaeography, coins and seals of these regions. Going back to 1928, this unique and up-to-date bibliographic reference source has become the standard of reference in the fields it covers for both specialists as well as students.

Airiti books 華藝中文電子書

About: Chinese e-books on a variety of academic and general subjects.

American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Historical Periodicals Collection

About: Partnering with American Antiquarian Society (AAS), the premier library documenting the life of America’s people from the Colonial Era through the Civil War and Reconstruction, EBSCO provides digital access to the most comprehensive collection of American periodicals published between 1691 and 1877.

The fifty thematic collections from AAS Historical Periodicals include digitized images of the pages of American magazines and journals not available from any other source and provide rich content detailing American history and culture from the mid-18th century through the late-19th century. These specialized collections cover advertising, health, women’s issues, science, the history of slavery, industry & professions, religious issues, culture and the arts, and more.

Apartheid South Africa, 1948-1980

About: Apartheid South Africa makes available British government files from the Foreign, Colonial, Dominion and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices spanning the period 1948 to 1980.

These previously restricted letters, diplomatic dispatches, reports, trial papers, activists’ biographies and first-hand accounts of events give unprecedented access to the history of South Africa’s apartheid regime. The files explore the relationship of the international community with South Africa and chart increasing civil unrest against a backdrop of waning colonialism in Africa and mounting world condemnation.

Balochistan Archives

About: Balochistan is the largest of the four provinces of Pakistan and possesses a rich variety of languages, resources, civilization and culture. The province is located at the geographical intersection and cultural crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. As a result, it is one of the richest areas in the country in terms of antiquities, archaeological sites, and historical archives.

Balochistan Archives is an executive agency of the Government of Balochistan which serves as the main repository for official records and documents of historical significance. Archivescontain evidence of financial and legal commitments, provide information about significant historical events, and help protect the civil and legal property rights of the citizens. In short, archives are the pillars on which the foundation of history stands and, therefore, require preservation and special care.We are the guardians of the most significant national and provincial level documents in Balochistan Province. Currently, we hold more than 20,000 files, printed papers, books, and manuscripts pertaining to the colonial and post-independence period in Balochistan. The Directorate of Archives is part of the Department of Culture, Tourism, and Archives. The Director, Balochistan Archives, reports to the Secretary, Culture, Tourism, and Archives Department.

Flora of the World

About: Background: Digital imagery has offered us the opportunity to focus our passion for travel and exploration on helping to document the world’s biodiversity by developing this website as an adjunct to formal scientific collections. Along the way we are focusing on families and genera that have a biogeographical story to reveal and on pollination relationships when the opportunity arises.


  • Develop and maintain a freely available and helpful website for botanically oriented users.
  • Maintain and expand a content of digital images curated to generally accepted professional standards and supported by vouchered herbarium specimens whenever possible.
  • Include a minimum of one genus per family and, with continued development, several to many genera.
  • Accompany plant images with images of surrounding habitats.
  • Attempt to record diagnostic characteristics of taxa.

The site currently includes all but 44 angiosperm families as recognized in APG III, about 3500 genera, and perhaps 14,000 species from all continents and 36 countries. Our focus has been on biodiversity hotspots (so far, California, northern Andes, SE Spain, Viet Nam, West Africa, Madagascar, Borneo), but not exclusively, and because we never find everything we look for the first time, it is usually necessary to make repeat trips. Metadata attached to each image is constantly updated or upgraded to keep names current and to provide GPS locations where these were initially missing on images published at the beginning of the website (2008). This is a work in progress and will essentially never be completed, but we do what we can to keep up with name changes. Our goal is to be maintained at a level comparable to a standard well-curated herbarium.

Franz Boas Papers

About: During the half century leading up to the Second World War, Franz Boas helped to define academic anthropology in the United States. Trained as a geographer at the University of Heidelberg, Boas worked initially on the Inuit of Baffin Island and subsequently on the cultures of the Indians of the Northwest Pacific Coast, becoming a leading figure in American anthropology by the first decade of the twentieth century. As Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, Boas made significant theoretical contributions to ethnology, linguistics, and physical anthropology, helping to ingrain the four fields approach in his discipline and introducing the concept of cultural relativism into wide currency. He was, as well, a committed Socialist and an ardent opponent of both racism and fascism.

This collection includes correspondence that Boas carried on with his colleagues in anthropology, as well as with those in the other social sciences and sciences. This correspondence is rich as a source for twentieth-century historians interested in “radical” social causes, since Boas was a socialist and an outspoken voice for progressive social causes.

The Gilded Age

About: The Gilded Age brings primary documents and scholarly commentary together into a searchable collection that is the definitive electronic resource for students and scholars researching this important period in American history. In addition to an extensive selection of key treatises that reflect the social and cultural ferment of the late nineteenth century, The Gilded Age offers a wealth of rare materials, including songs, letters, photographs, cartoons, government documents, and ephemera. This primary content is enhanced by video interviews with scholars and numerous topical critical documentary essays specially commissioned for the project by Alexander Street Press. Covering such themes as race, labor, immigration, commerce, western expansion, and women’s suffrage, these essays illuminate the rapidly changing cultural landscape of America during the decades between the end of the Civil War and the election of Theodore Roosevelt. The collection currently has over 53,000 pages.

Global registry of biodiversity repositories

About: GRBio is the first-ever consolidated, comprehensive clearinghouse of information about biological collections in natural history museums, herbaria, and other biorepositories. This online-registry is a source for authoritative information about collections as well as validated, standardized data such as addresses, contacts, and values for the Darwin Core identifiers for institutions (institutionCode) and collections (collectionCode). Personal collections can also be registered here, whether they belong to private collectors or are research collections that haven’t yet been accessioned into an institutional collection.

Index of References Dealing with Talmudic Literature

About: The Index of References Dealing with Talmudic Literature provides bibliographical references to discussions on rabbinic literature and related fields and has been updated to include close to 1000 works. These works comprise modern Talmud scholarship and related fields, parallel references within the Talmudic-Midrashic literature and medieval Talmudic commentaries. The bibliography of Talmud scholarship and related fields spans various disciplines including but not limited to: ancient history, women in the Talmud, the relationship of Qumran texts to Talmudic literature and more. The database also includes classics of Talmud scholarship such as Saul Lieberman’s Tosefta ki-feshuta and Y.N. Epstein’s Mavo le-Nusach ha-Mishna. This update includes an input function for authors to add the passage indexes to rabbinic literature from their works. A benefit to all of scholarship, this function will allow for new works to be available on an ongoing basis. Any book with a passage index to rabbinic literature will be readily available to subscribers of the Index.

Taiwan Photo Gallery / GIS Database

About: With the project on “Taiwan Photo Gallery/GIS Database,” a total of 25,000 photos from 1895 to 1945, dated back to 70 to 100 years ago, were collected create a database. Many of these images are newly found contents. The two major sources are: first-hand photos obtained from individual collectors and a collection of images related to Taiwan history and culture collected by TBMC and AND Publishing Ltd over the years. A collection is made by renting old photos from individual collectors, with the total number of over 15000. The purpose of this project is not to acquire the originals, but to digitize them. After being digitalized, 25,000 photos have refreshed past historical events. An image is like an epitome of lifestyle in the earlier days. It is more touching and real than words. The work is presented by GIS, a creative technology. The interrelationship between space and time has enriched contents of the work and brought into modern creativity for Taiwanese cultural resources. It offers users the new references and different sides of thinking. It is a significant work of knowledge-based economy.

You can also view our list of recently activated e-journals.

Scanning Nuremberg: Correlating transcripts, the Nazi judicial system and the SS, and more

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written January 7, 2015

Scanning Nuremberg shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

The December operation was to work through 12 prosecution document books, containing 140 documents and approximately 990 pages of material.

The transcript required more attention (and much more time) as the prosecution case began to wind down, with documents being entered almost randomly. I needed to work far ahead in the transcript to find where the evidence came in—and whether it was accepted as exhibits. Beyond that key fact, the transcript-document correlation provides other important benefits. Often the transcript supplies information not in a document, such as filling in a missing date, or correcting an error in authorship. In the other direction, in one case a document was entered in the transcript without the key identifying information (the evidence code number), but having the document books at hand allowed me to figure out which document it was (PS 2309) and make the match. There’s a fairly high error rate in the way the transcript identifies documents, so the match needs to be made carefully, and errors can be sorted out in the “Notes” field of the database.

While the material covers a wide range of topics, one recurring theme is the tension between the judicial system and Himmler’s SS. The Ministry of Justice gradually control, with the issue raised indirectly rather than explicitly (complaining about the SS was not a smart thing to do). In a domestic analogue to the Night-and-Fog operation used against foreign Resistance members, Germans who were arrested but not convicted, or who completed a prison sentence, often found themselves “disappeared” into the custody of the SS (either to be executed or put into a labor camp). Judicial officers ventured to suggest that this made the public wonder who was really in charge, a question that they already knew the answer to but couldn’t say out loud.

In one memo on discussions about the legal status of Jews, a Justice official noted that “There should be no scruples against the suggestions of the Minister of the Interior,” the minister being Himmler. These discussions tended to be one-way conversations, as Himmler kept his secrets. In the revision of the regulations against Jews, Poles, and Gypsies, Himmler noted in 1944 that the “evacuation and isolation” of the Jews and Gypsies meant that only the Poles were still an issue.

Nazi political economy: One unusual case was an elaborate prosecution of the leaders of a Catholic convent for failing to follow rationing regulations. The judge was apologetic to the Mother Superior, since the violations were inconsequential. One sentence buried in the file clarified the concept: the convent property was worth $2.5 million, and the investigation allowed the government to confiscate the entire estate.

The Dirty Dozen venture: At one point the prison authorities were asked to look through their inmates for good hunters who would be asked to serve in army and SS units behind enemy lines.

Phrase of the month: A defense attorney who knew many elite non-Nazi Germans believed that they would have been more active except that they were paralyzed by “the really masterly mysteriousness” of the Gestapo.

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

The Harvard Law School Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have already digitized NMT 1 (U.S.A. v. Karl Brandt et al.), NMT 2 (U.S.A. v. Erhard Milch), and NMT 4 (U.S.A. v. Pohl et al.), and we’re in the process of digitizing our remaining holdings. We expect to have NMT 3 (The Judges’ Trial) completed and available to the public by the summer of 2015.

Although the digitization of the remaining trials will also be complete by the end of this year, they will require analysis and tagging work before they can be released to the public.  We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding. For more information about this project, please contact Kim Dulin.

Library Research Assistants Wanted

The Harvard Law School Library is looking for part-time Research Assistants for Summer 2015 and beyond. Research Assistants will assist with short-term faculty research assignments and work with library staff to complete faculty document requests. Opportunities are available for both on-campus and off-campus work.

Interested candidates should submit resumes and letters of interest to Tom Boone, Faculty Services Librarian, tboone@law.harvard.edu.

Qualifications include completion of First Year Legal Research and Writing, as well as basic legal research experience.

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.

NY Times digital subscription update

the-new-york-times2Last year the HLS Library acquired a site license for the NYTimes.com. All HLS faculty, students, and staff may use this group pass to create an individual user account similar to the fee-based digital subscription for the NYTimes.com plus SmartPhone App.   

The renewal/registration process has changed. 

  • We moved our yearly group pass cycle from March 1 to August 1 to allow new grads 3 months’ access. If you joined our group pass last year, you will need to renew this spring and again on August 1.
  • Going forward, all HLS faculty, students and staff must renew (” grab a pass” in NYT lingo) every August 1 regardless of their initial registration date. 

If you need to renew your group pass now or in August:

  • Go to the HLS Group Pass link.
  • Enter your HLS Me credentials.
  • Choose the “Log in to Continue” button.
  • Enter your current username and password. You’re all set!

If you have never registered with NYTimes.com:

  • Go to the HLS Group Pass link.  
  • Enter your HLS Me credentials.
  • Follow the instructions to create an account and register for your new pass

If you have never registered for a group pass, but have registered an account with NYTimes.com:

  • Go to the HLS Group Pass link.
  • Enter your HLS Me credentials.
  • If you are already a non-paying subscriber (i.e. you are registered to received free 10 monthly articles), be sure to choose the “Log in to Continue” button. The group pass will be added to your existing account.
  • If you already have an existing paid subscription for digital access to the NYTimes.com you must first cancel your subscription before joining the HLS group pass. You may cancel your existing digital subscription by calling Customer Care at (800) 591-9233.
  • Paid subscribers will not be reimbursed for cancellation. You may want to time your registration accordingly.

Other points of note: 

  • Our group pass covers computers, laptops and SmartPhone devices only.  It will not work on your tablet apps, but it will work using your tablet’s browser.
  • Our site license is for the Law School only and it is not available to alumni.  

We hope you enjoy this resource. For assistance or questions, please contact the Library.

Faculty Book Talk: Intisar Rabb’s Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law

The Harvard Law School Library staff invites you to attend a book talk and panel discussion in celebration of  Professor Intisar Rabb’s recently published book, Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law. 

Wednesday April 8, 2015, 12:00 noon.

Harvard Law School, Room WCC 2012. (Directions).

Sponsored by the Harvard Law School Library.

Lunch will be served.

Intisar A. Rabb is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a director of its Islamic Legal Studies Program. She also holds an appointment as a Professor of History at Harvard University and as a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She previously served as an Associate Professor at NYU Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and at NYU Law School, as Visiting Associate Professor of Islamic Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, and as a member of the law faculty at Boston College Law School—where she has taught courses in criminal law, legislation and theories of statutory interpretation, and Islamic law. She also served as a law clerk for Judge Thomas L. Ambro of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She was named a 2010 Carnegie Scholar for research on issues of Islamic constitutionalism and contemporary law reform through processes of “internal critique” in the Muslim world, and a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard for a project designed to add scholarly context to ongoing discussions of Islamic law in new media. She has published on Islamic law in historical and modern contexts, including an edited volume, Law and Tradition in Classical Islamic Thought (with Michael Cook et al., Palgrave 2013), and numerous articles on Islamic constitutionalism, Islamic legal maxims, and on the early history of the Qur’an text. She received a BA from Georgetown University, a JD from Yale Law School, and an MA and PhD from Princeton University. She has conducted research in Egypt, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere.

rabb two panelists

“This book considers an important and largely neglected area of Islamic law by exploring how medieval Muslim jurists resolved criminal cases that could not be proven beyond a doubt. Intisar A. Rabb calls into question a controversial popular notion about Islamic law today, which is that Islamic law is a divine legal tradition that has little room for discretion or doubt, particularly in Islamic criminal law. Despite its contemporary popularity, that notion turns out to have been far outside the mainstream of Islamic law for most of its history. Instead of rejecting doubt, medieval Muslim scholars largely embraced it. In fact, they used doubt to enlarge their own power and to construct Islamic criminal law itself. Through a close examination of legal, historical, and theological sources, and a range of illustrative case studies, this book shows that Muslim jurists developed a highly sophisticated and regulated system for dealing with Islam’s unique concept of doubt, which evolved from the seventh to the sixteenth century.” — Cambridge University Press

The book talk panel includes:

Roy Mottahedeh




Roy Mottahedeh
Gurney Professor of Islamic History
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Harvard University


Adriaan Lanni





Adriaan Lanni
Professor of Law 
Harvard Law School

Brown Bag: PACER Campaign with Carl Malamud

Come hear about the Yo.YourHonor.Org campaign!
Brown Bag with cookies
Monday, April 6th, 12:30-1:30pm
Lewis 214B, Harvard Law School (maps)

Carl Malamud is visiting the Library to talk about the Yo.YourHonor.Org campaign currently underway to make U.S. District Court documents on the PACER system much more broadly available.

Carl Malamud is the founder of Public.Resource.Org, a non-profit that helps make the law more broadly available on the Internet. Working with Larry Lessig and Creative Commons, Public Resource made historical opinions of the U.S. Court of Appeals available for the first time. Working with Aaron Swartz, Public Resource did a comprehensive audit of District Court dockets for privacy violations. In the 1990s, Carl was responsible for putting the SEC’s EDGAR database and the U.S. Patent database on the Internet. Carl is the author of 8 professional reference books and is credited as the operator of the first radio station on the Internet. He received the Berkman Award in 2008. You might remember seeing him during our Law.gov events and Future of Law Libraries conference a few years back.

Faculty Book Talk: Gabriella Blum’s The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones? — Confronting A New Age of Threat, Wed. April 1 at noon

The Harvard Law School Library staff invites you to attend a book talk and panel discussion in celebration of  Professor Gabriella Blum’s recently published book with Benjamin Wittes,  The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones? — Confronting A New Age of Threat.

Gabriella Blum is the Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School, specializing in public international law, international negotiations, the law of armed conflict, and counterterrorism. She is also the Co-Director of the HLS-Brookings Project on Law and Security and a member of the Program on Negotiation Executive Board.

Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in the fall of 2005, Blum served for seven years as a Senior Legal Advisor in the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General’s Corps in the Israel Defense Forces, and for another year, as a Strategy Advisor to the Israeli National Security Council.

Blum is the author of Islands of Agreement: Managing Enduring Armed Rivalries, (Harvard University Press, 2007), and of Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists (MIT Press, 2010) (co-authored with Philip Heymann and recipient of the Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize), as well as of journal articles in the fields of public international law and the law and morality of war.

Benjamin Wittes is senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare.

Wednesday April 1, 2015, 12:00 noon.

Harvard Law School, Room WCC 2012. (Directions).

Sponsored by the Harvard Law School Library.

Lunch will be served.

Future of Violence

“From drone warfare in the Middle East to digital spying by the National Security Agency, the U.S. government has harnessed the power of cutting-edge technology to awesome effect. But what happens when ordinary people have the same tools at their fingertips? Advances in cybertechnology, biotechnology, and robotics mean that more people than ever before have access to potentially dangerous technologies—from drones to computer networks and biological agents—which could be used to attack states and private citizens alike.

In The Future of Violence, law and security experts Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum detail the myriad possibilities, challenges, and enormous risks present in the modern world, and argue that if our national governments can no longer adequately protect us from harm, they will lose their legitimacy. Consequently, governments, companies, and citizens must rethink their security efforts to protect lives and liberty. In this brave new world where many little brothers are as menacing as any Big Brother, safeguarding our liberty and privacy may require strong domestic and international surveillance and regulatory controls. Maintaining security in this world where anyone can attack anyone requires a global perspective, with more multinational forces and greater action to protect (and protect against) weaker states who do not yet have the capability to police their own people. Drawing on political thinkers from Thomas Hobbes to the Founders and beyond, Wittes and Blum show that, despite recent protestations to the contrary, security and liberty are mutually supportive, and that we must embrace one to ensure the other.

The Future of Violence is at once an introduction to our emerging world—one in which students can print guns with 3-D printers and scientists’ manipulations of viruses can be recreated and unleashed by ordinary people—and an authoritative blueprint for how government must adapt in order to survive and protect us.” — Basic Books

Book talk panelists include:

Yochai Benkler


Professor Yochai Benkler, Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies and Faculty Co-Director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society


Jack Goldsmith



Professor Jack Goldsmith, Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law


Jonathan Zittrain

Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Bemis Professor of International Law, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, Faculty Director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Professor of Computer Science, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Professor, Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government


“[An] ambitious…treatise regarding a particular terror of modern life: the increasing ubiquity of potential harm spawned by technological transformations…. The authors raise fascinating questions…. A thoughtful…Cassandra warning of great vulnerabilities disguised as gifts.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America
“A book that manages to meld Hobbes, James Bond, science fiction, and Supreme Court decisions is a rare read. All the more impressive when it takes a complex set of urgent questions about the intersection of technology, security, and liberty, and offers insights and at least the beginnings of answers. Violence will be always with us, but its forms are changing in ways that challenge our ability to respond to and regulate it.”

Bruce Schneier, author of Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World
“Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum have written a compelling and provocative book about an important topic we have not adequately faced: managing catastrophic risk in a technologically advanced society. I strongly recommend this book even for people who will not agree with the authors’ conclusions.”

Matthew Olsen, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
“Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum provide a compelling and sobering argument that the rapid advancement and proliferation of new technologies—from cyber to biotech to robotics—have fundamentally altered our security. We face the prospect of a Hobbesian state of nature, where each individual is at once a figure of great power and great vulnerability. In this indispensable book, Wittes and Blum then tackle the staggering implications: What does this mean for the social contract between citizen and state and our traditional notions of liberty, privacy, and security? In short, can the modern state keep us safe?”

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.