Rare Book Collections
Rare Book Services
Rare book service is available on weekdays from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Access to rare materials is by appointment only. For further information, contact Mr. Nathan Dorn, Rare Book Librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-707-3803.
Selected Special Collections
Early English and American Legal Materials
- Year Book Literature – Reports of pleadings in cases decided in English courts from the reign of Edward I (1272-1307), to that of Henry VIII (1509-47). Includes “black-letter editions” published between 1480 and 1680, modern editions, and abridgments.
- William Blackstone Collection – Contains more than 350 titles of numerous editions of Commentaries on the laws of England as well as abridgments, extracts, and borrowings from it, as well as other legal tracts, essays and treatises by the famous and extremely influential 18th-century English jurist and professor
- English and American Trials Collection – Includes complete official or quasi-official transcripts of trials, confessions, and narrative accounts of various criminal, commercial, and political cases in Great Britain and America since the 1500’s
- British Colonial Appeal Papers – A rare collection of approximately 100 cases on appeal to the Privy Council in England from the colonies of Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Christopher, taken during the latter half of the 18th c.
- Early American Statutory Law – Original editions of colonial, state, and territorial session laws, codes and compilations, and special laws; early United States session laws and those of the Confederate States of America; and constitutions and by-laws of various Native American Indian tribes
- Legal Americana – Unofficial legal publications, principally manuals for justices of the peace and other town officers; guides concerning the rights and duties of citizens; practical abridgments of the law for officials, lawyers, and laymen; and biographies of early American jurists
European Legal Traditions
- Roman Law – Manuscripts, more than 70 incunabula, and 1600 other publications printed before 1801: includes pre-Justinian Roman law sources; many early editions of Justinian’s Corpus juris; medieval sources of Roman law; glossed editions of Roman texts; commentaries; and later humanist interpretations
- Canon law – Approximately 2000 manuscripts and early editions of the ecclesiastical law of the Roman Catholic Church; includes numerous editions of the Decretum Gratiani, first compiled about 1140 by a canon lawyer from Bologna known as Gratian
- Consilia – 1200 specialized legal opinions usually written at the request of judges by jurists from Italy, Germany, France, and Spain published from the 14th through the 18th century; includes several incunabula and a 14th-c. manuscript
- Coutumes – Includes 800 volumes of “coutumes” or customary laws of France and other neighboring European countries dating from the 15th through the 18th centurier
- Italian statuta – 500 volumes of codes which prevailed in the city-states of Italy from the Middle Ages until the 18th c.; includes manuscripts and incunabula
- Chateau de Sassy. In 1937, the Law Library acquired 213 items bearing the bookplate of the Chateau de Sassy, onetime home of Etienne Denis, duc Pasquier (1808-1862) a noted French political figure whom Louis Philippe I named as Chancellor of France in 1837. The collection includes a variety of printed trials and treatises with imprints from the 18th to the late 19th centuries.
- Pre-Revolutionary French Slip Laws. Composed of 44 document boxes of printed legal documents of royal decrees and decisions of the French royal council from the reigns of King Louis XIV-King Louis XVI. Total count is over 4000 documents and includes “Arrêts du Conseil Du Roy” (Decisions of the Royal Council), “Declarations Du Roy” (Declarations of the King) and “Edits du Roy” (Edicts of the King). These touch upon trade, taxation, finance, property law, ecclesiastical property, and letters patent
- Native American Law. Includes print editions of constitutions, by-laws and statutes of various Native American Indian tribes in English and in Indigenous languages from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Hispanic and Latin American Legal Materials
- Hispanic Law – Includes 1200 volumes of early editions of ancient and medieval Spanish codes; manuscripts; and legal documents relating to the Spanish colonies in the Americas
- Spanish Legal Documents (15th-19th Centuries). Includes 2,476 documents in 69 document boxes divided into the following categories: briefs, canon law, notarial instruments, opinions & judgments, laws & statutes. Most are briefs, i.e., forensic writings related to disputes on inheritance and titles of nobility, taxes, church privilege and the like. Items of special interest include documents pertaining to the Spanish Inquisition; papal bulls and ecclesiastical concordats; as well as laws, statutes, instructions and decrees of Spanish kings and government officials. The Library is hosting an ongoing crowdsourcing campaign to transcribe the documents.
Russian and Slavic Legal Materials
- Russian Imperial Collection – Includes approximately 1360 volumes of military laws, laws regarding the abolition of serfdom, revisions of civil and criminal laws, and various texts on special legal subjects, many handsomely bound and book-plated, purchased by the Library of Congress from the Winter Palace Library of the Romanov family
- Pre-Soviet Russian legal sources and literature – Consists of approximately 11,740 volumes, including three extremely rare 18th century printed editions of the earliest compilation of Russian legislation, and 46 legal manuscript scrolls dating from the 17th and 18th centuries
- Yudin Collection. Gennadii Vasil'evich Yudin (1840-1912), a Siberian distiller and amateur bibliographer sold his personal collection of over 80,000 books and other media, one of the largest then existing in the Russian Empire, to the Library of Congress in 1906. The Law Library houses over six hundred volumes from Yudin’s original collection.
Maritime and International Law
- Maritime law – Includes two 14th-c. Venetian manuscripts and early treatises published in Spain, Italy, England, France, and the United States during the 16th through the 18th centuries
- International law - Includes manuscripts, incunabula, major treatises published during the 16th and 17th centuries, and historical collections of treaties
Other Special Collections
- Medieval and Early Modern Manuscript Books – Includes more than 60 manuscript books dating from before 1600 AD, and an additional 200 manuscript books from the 17th-19th centuries, representing a variety of languages and jurisdictions
- Medieval Manuscript Waste Binding and Fragments. Includes approximately 600 medieval manuscript fragments, nearly all of which are incorporated into the bindings of later manuscript and printed books
- Incunabula – Includes more than 300 volumes dealing with Roman, Canon, feudal, and French customary laws published in cities throughout continental Europe and England before 1501 in Latin and vernacular languages of the period
Digitized Collection Links
Social Media News and Highlights
Rare Book Videos
- New Acquisition: A 14th-Century Manuscript of Registrum Brevium
- New Acquisition: Document Signed by President Andrew Johnson Related to the 14th Amendment
- New Acquisition: 15th-Century Manuscript on the Laws of War for Knights
- New Acquisition: 1794 Sea Letter Signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson
- Recent Acquisitions at the Law Library of Congress
- Nathan Dorn discusses George Washington's copy of the Acts of the First Session of the First Congress under the Federal Constitution of 1789
- Robert Brammer discusses the trial of Rep. Daniel Sickles for Shooting Philip Barton Key
- Barbara Bavis discusses the trial of Captain William Kidd for murder and piracy
- Robert Brammer discusses the trial of Richard Lawrence for his assassination attempt on President Andrew Jackson
- Robert Brammer discusses a legal writ handwritten by Abraham Lincoln
- Nathan Dorn discusses Harry Truman's law school notebook
- Nathan Dorn discusses the Malleus Maleficarum, a treatise used to try persons accused of witchcraft
See more on the Law Library’s YouTube channel external link
New Acquisitions on In Custodia Legis
- A 14th-Century Manuscript of Registrum Brevium
- Legal document in the hand of Abraham Lincoln
- Ship’s Passport signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson
- Document Signed by President Andrew Johnson Related to the 14th Amendment
- 15th-century Manuscript on the Laws of War for Knights in the Middle Ages
- A Legal Textbook based on Mnemonics: Memoriale Institutionum Iuris by Johannes Buno
- Legal Document signed by Mary Coffin Starbuck of Nantucket and Wunnatuckwuannum.
- The Trial of Governor Picton: A case of Torture in Trinidad
- A 15th-century manuscript of Johannes de Imola’s Commentary on the Decretales of Gregory IX
- A 15th-century manuscript of the canons and constitutions of the Archdiocese of Zaragoza
- Henry Clay Draft of Article IX of the Treaty of Ghent
- Special verdict in the hand of Alexander Hamilton
- Highlighting a Land Grant signed by William Penn and Harry S. Truman’s Law School Notebook
- A Legal Complaint in the Hand of John Adams
- Incunable Edition of Decretales of Gregory IX and two related Medieval Manuscripts
- Parliamentary Protests, MS, London, 1649-1799.
- Nimmer’s Copy of Nimmer on Copyright
- Alonso de la Vera Cruz. Speculum coniugiorum. Excussum opus Mexici: In aedibus Ioannis Pauli Brissensis, A.D. 1556 Idi. Aug[us].
- Engravings of Medieval and Renaissance Lawyers in Mantova Benavides, Marco. Illustrium Virorum Iureconsultor[um]. Venetia: Appresso Bolognino Zaltieri, M.D.LXX con privilegio .
- Laws in the Jewish Ghetto of Ferrara: Regola per Riccavarsi Gl’Annui Aggravi per le Spese, Che Occorrono All’Universita Degl’Ebrei di Ferrara: Et Altre Provisioni. Ferrara, 1734.
- Carranza, Alonso, active 1628-1636. Tractatus juridicus & practicus, de partu. Coloniae: Sumptibus Ioannis de Tournes, & Iacobi de la Pierre, 1629.
- Johannes de Turnhout. Casus breves super totum corpus legume. [Brussels : Brothers of the Common Life, between 1478 and 1480].
Collection News on In Custodia Legis
- Moving the Rare Books Collection
- Announcing the Law Library’s new secure storage facility
- Junior Fellow on Describing the Pre-Revolutionary French Slip Law Collection.
- Research on Law Library of Congress items containing paper made in Fabriano, Italy
- A Junior Fellow Describes the Hispanic Legal Documents Collection
- Samuel Chase Manuscript
- Manuscript Waste Bindings in Law Library Collections
- A Series of Editions of Papegay, a work by Willem van Alphen (1608-1691)
- Arbores and Ars Memorativa: Tree diagrams in Law Library of Congress resources
- G.V. Yudin Collection materials
Collection Highlights on In Custodia Legis
- Ordeal of cold water in early modern English witchcraft trials
- Joshua Montefiore, first Jewish person to author an American law book
- Simon Greenleaf and the First American Legal Citation Index
- Congress submits 12 proposed amendments to the states (George Washington’s copy of the Constitution and Acts of Congress)
- Early Treatises on the Laws of Corporations
- A Tryal of Witches at the Assize held at Bury St. Edmonds (London, 1682)
- Chancellor James Kent
- A Summary of Recent Law Library Acquisitions
- A 17th-century Icelanding Manuscript
- Early Editions of the French Civil Code of 1804 and its Progeny
- Hidden Treasures of the Law Library of Congress
- Joseph Story
- Book of Law Used in the State of Johor
- Jolande Bonhomme’s Institutes of Justinian, Institutionum seu elementorum iuris ciuilis libri iiij… Parisijs: Ex officina libraria Yolande Bonho[m]me vidue spectabilis viri Thielma[n]ni Keruer …, 1540 [i.e. 1541].
- Bamberger Halsgerichtsordnung. Mainz, 1508.
- Marble End Paper in Law Library Collection Items
- Malleus Maleficarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1496.
- Constitution and Laws of the Cherokee Nation, 1878 and other items related to Native American Law.
- Consilia of Alessandro Nievo, Venetiis: [Apud Cominum de Tridino] 1560.
- Pre-State Laws from the Territory of Minnesota
- Earliest Legal Biographies in the Law Library’s Collection
- Manuscript reports of the General Court of Virginia, formerly owned by Thomas Jefferson.
- Earliest Legal Bibliographies in the Law Library’s Collection
- Karl Ferdinand Hommel’s Litteratura Iuris (Editio Secunda), Lipsiae, apvd Casparvm Fritsch, 1779.
- Littleton, Thomas, Sir, -1481. Tenures. Les tenures de Monsieur Littleton. Imprinted at London: In Fleetestrete within Temple Barre, at the signe of the Hand and Starre, by Richarde Tottell, 1591.
- Carta Executoria contra villa de Herencia. MS, Spain 16th Century.
- Burkhard Gotthelf Struve’s Bibliotheca Iuris Selecta (Jena, 1743).
- The tryal of Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburn… The second edition. London: Printed for and sold by H. Hills ..., in the year 1710.
- Institutes of Justinian, MS 14th Century.
- Peoples antient and just liberties asserted in the tryal of William Penn and William Mead [London : s.n], printed in the year, 1670.
- Collection Highlights: First Acts of U.S. Congress signed by George Washington. New York: Hodge, Allen and Campbell, 1789.
- Dutch Translation of the United States Constitution, Printed in 1788 by Lambertus de Ronde.
- The Layen Spiegel of Ulrich Tengler, Augsburg, 1509. Tengler, Ulrich, -approximately 1511. Laÿen Spiegel von rechtmässigen Ordnungen in burgerlichen vnd peinlichen Regimenten. Volbracht ... in der kaiserlichen Haubtstat Vindelica yetz Augspurg des Lands Schwaben: Von Maister Hansen Otmar, durch Ordnung vn[d] Darlegung gantzes Kostens des ... Herrn Johann Rynman[n] von Öring[e]n... an sant Andreas Abend ... [29 Nov.] des Jars als man zalt nach Christ Geburt 1509..
- French Revolutionary Era Official Gazettes: Gazette nationale, ou, Le moniteur universel. Paris: Chez H. Agasse, Libraire, 1789-1810.
- Unsuccessful petitions for statehood.
- Francis Bacon
- Caramuel Lobkowitz, Juan, 1606-1682. Primus calamus ob oculos ponens metametricam Ioannis Caramuelis. Romae: Fabius Falconius excudebat, anno 1663.
- John Selden on International Law: Selden, John, 1584-1654. De jure naturali et gentium juxta disciplinam Ebraeorum. Argentorati: Sumptibus Joh. Andr. Endteri & Wolfgangi, junioris haeredum bibliop. Noribergensium, anno 1665.
- Laws in a Crusader State: Cyprus. Le assise et bone vsanze del reame de Hyerusalem / l'Alta corte. In Venetia: In la stamparia di Aurelio Pincio, nelli anni de la natiuita del Signor nostro 1535 del mese di marzo.
- Processus contra Templarios. Città del Vaticano: Archivio Segreto Vaticano, c2007.
- The Paul Kruger Archive at the Law Library of Congress
- Constitution of Cádiz. Constitución política de la monarquía española. Promulgada en Cádiz á 19 de marzo de 1812. Madrid, 1813.
- For the colony in Virginea Britannia: Lavves diuine, morall and martiall… London: Walter Burre, 1612. [ Boston : 1936].
- Cotton, John, 1584-1652. An abstract or the lavves of New England, as they are novv established. London: Printed for F. Coules, and W. Ley at Paules Chain, 1641.
- A Selection of Interesting Items
- The Code of Canon Law, signed and dedicated by Pope John Paul II. Codex Juris Canonici / auctoritate Joannis Pauli PP. II promulgatus. Vatican City: Libreria editrice vaticana, 1983.
- The Jewish Law Collection