Category Archives: Library Exhibits

Farewell to the Dengrove Courtroom Sketches

A sketch depicting a scene from the Son of Sam trial

Son of Sam Trial

Students returning to campus this fall may wonder what happened to the intriguing courtroom sketches that were on display in the Georgetown Law Library. Their creator, Ida Libby Dengrove, drew some of the most memorable trials of the late twentieth century.

The Dengrove exhibit was provided on loan from the University of Virginia Law Library, and its time with us has come to an end. However, you can still view the collection on the UVA Law Library website and learn more about the events the sketches depict.

Now on display in the the Williams third floor atrium are landscape photos taken by library staff. We hope you enjoy them, and please let us know if you have any feedback of suggestions for future exhibits.

New Exhibits of Books from Special Collections

Georgetown Law Library Special Collections is pleased to announce two new exhibits featuring rare books from our collections. The first is our own exhibit, Magna Carta, Sir Edward Coke, and the Rule of Law at the Dawn of American Settlement. This exhibit is located in the Special Collections exhibit case outside Room 210 in the Williams Law Library. The exhibit features 5 imprints of Magna Carta cum Statutis tum antiquis tum recentibus, the leading compilation of English statutes from the reigns of Elizabeth I and James VI & I, that were annotated in law French by their owners. It also includes images from Sir Edward Coke’s personal annotated copy of Bracton, the landmark treatise of English law written shortly after the authoritative 1225 version of Magna Carta was issued by Henry III. Full text images of all of the featured books are available through Digital Georgetown.

The second exhibit is Age of Lawyers: The Roots of American Law in Shakespeare’s Britain at the Folger Shakespeare Library. This exhibit features our copy of Coke’s Bracton and our set of 17th century imprints of Parts 1 through 12 of Coke’s case reports, which were so highly esteemed that they quickly became known simply as The Reports; as well as many other rare books and manuscripts from the Folger’s collections.

For further information about these two exhibits, please contact us at

New Exhibit: Annotated Imprints II: The Jurisprudence of Cannibalism in Fuller’s ‘Case of the Speluncean Explorers’

This is the second in a series of posts about annotated books held by Georgetown Law Library’s Special Collections. This post features an annotated copy of the 1949 Temporary Edition of Lon Fuller’s ‘The Problems of Jurisprudence’ textbook from the Judge Charles E. Wyzanski Collection.

Learning and practicing the law exposes both students and practitioners to difficult issues that sometimes defy easy answers. Law professors regularly craft hypotheticals in attempts to encourage students to discuss such issues. There are surely few more difficult than those faced by survivors of catastrophes struggling to stay alive in the face of insufficient supplies of food and water. Lon Fuller’s now iconic Case of the Speluncean Explorers has become a classic hypothetical for discussion in jurisprudence courses since it was published in the Harvard Law Review in February 1949. Based loosely on the infamous 19th century cannibalism murder trials of shipwreck survivors in Queen v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 L. Rep. 273 (Q.B. Div. 1884), and U.S. v. Holmes, 26 F. Cas. 360, 1 Wall. Jr. 1 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1842) (No. 15,383), the Case of the Speluncean Explorers asks students to ponder whether a murder has in fact taken place under such circumstances. How might a sitting judge actually rule in such a case?

Georgetown Law Library is fortunate to hold the personal library of Judge Charles E. Wyzanski (1906-1986), which contains a suggestive answer in his annotated copy of Fuller’s Problems of Jurisprudence. Judge Wyzanski began his legal career by clerking for Judge Augustus Noble Hand from 1930-31 and then for Judge Learned Hand in 1932. He then became a leading New Deal lawyer in the Roosevelt administration’s Department of Justice, first as Solicitor of Labor from 1933-35 and then as Special Assistant to the Attorney General in the Office of the Solicitor General from 1935-37. He returned to private practice until 1941 when he was appointed to the District Court for the District of Massachusetts by President Roosevelt. During his tenure on the court from 1941 to 1986 Judge Wyzanski ventured into academia four times. He was a Harvard Lecturer in Government in1942-43, an MIT Lecturer in Law in 1949-50, a Lecturer in Law at Stanford from 1949-1951, and a Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia in 1974. Judge Wyzanski’s annotated copy of Problems of Jurisprudence likely dates from his lectureships at MIT and Stanford.

Judge Wyzanski’s annotated copy of Fuller’s Problems of Jurisprudence

An exhibit containing this book and Judge Wyzanski’s holding is currently in the Special Collections display case outside Williams 210. All of Judge Wyzanski’s books can be found in the library catalog by searching for the collection title – Judge Charles E. Wyzanski Collection.

To access these and other rare and historical acquisitions, contact Erin Kidwell, Curator of Legal History Collections –, or Hannah Miller, Special Collections Librarian –; or, Special Collections – You can also visit us in Special Collections (Williams 210) Monday – Friday from 10am to 6pm.

“Lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries”

Library recognizes 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright with exhibit, film screening, research guide

Fifty years ago, on Monday, March 18, 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled its own 1942 decision in Betts v. Brady. The Court mandated that states must provide lawyers for persons who are facing serious criminal charges, and who cannot afford counsel. Gideon v. Wainwright was a reflection of the broad awareness toward poverty at the time (President Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964), paving the way for the establishment -and improvement of — public defender structures and systems in all U.S. states. The case had broad constitutional implications, and represented a victory for the position that the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights were applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. One of the leading advocates of that position was Justice Hugo Black, who wrote the option of the Court. “Any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him…lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.” 

In recognition of this significant anniversary, Georgetown Law Library is featuring an exhibition about the case. In addition, we will screen Gideon’s Trumpet tonight, kicking off the Equal Justice Film Festival, and will also launch an indigent defense research guide.

The exhibit in the atrium of the E.B. Williams Law Library tells the story of Gideon v. Wainwright based on materials from the National Equal Justice Library’s collections, including the Gideon’s Trumpet script and stills collection, and other items. The 1980 TV movie Gideon’s Trumpet was based on Anthony Lewis’ book with the same title, which was initially published in 1964. The movie followed the book closely, but the director also took some artistic freedoms. Photographs in the exhibit, for example, contrast the 1963 Warren Court with the Hollywood Supreme Court. Sam Jaffe, representing Felix Frankfurter, remained on the Hollywood court, while in fact he had already resigned from the Supreme Court. As one of the supporters of Betts v. Brady, he was left on the Hollywood court to represent the opinion skeptical of overturning the 1942 decision.

The movie ends with Gideon’s acquittal after a second trial, where he was represented by an attorney (Fred Turner). But what happened after the happy ending? “It’s fair to say that all of the hopes that we had have not been fulfilled,” said Abe Krash, a Georgetown Law faculty member who worked on Abe Fortas defense team for Clarence Gideon, in an NEJL oral history interview. Later this spring, the library will continue its Gideon anniversary programs, and will be highlighting the General Charles L. Decker/NLADA collection in another exhibit, which will address some of the challenges of implementing and sustaining Gideon’s mandate following the 1963 decision.

In addition to the oral history with Abe Krash, the NEJL collections include oral history interviews with Bruce Jacob, who argued against Gideon on behalf of the State of Florida as a young Assistant Attorney General, and with Anthony Lewis, the author of Gideon’s Trumpet (1964), who followed the case as a reporter. Full videos and transcripts of the interviews can be accessed at:

Please join us for the screening of Gideon’s Trumpet tonight:

New Special Collections Exhibit: Annotated Imprints – Illuminating the Life of the Law

Scholars researching the history of the law consider law books and related works from the period covered vital sources of information.The value of these sources increases when they contain contemporaneous annotations that can provide vital clues to the mental world of lawyers of the day. If those annotations were made by a significant historical figure, such clues are priceless. Georgetown Law Library’s Special Collections holds several annotated imprints, including:

Sir Edward Coke

Sir Edward Coke’s (1552-1634) copy of the 1569 imprint of De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae [On the Laws and Customs of England] (ca. 1230-50) by Henri de Bracton (1210-1268), the first treatise of English law now commonly known simply as Bracton; and,

Sir Matthew Hale







Sir Matthew Hale’s (1609-1676) copy of the 1640 imprint of one of the most significant medieval chronicle histories of England, Monachi Albanensis Angli Historia Major by Matthew Paris (1200-1259), the 13th century scholar, polymath, and member of the court of Henry III.

Annotated Imprints features selected facsimile images from these two unique books. The exhibit is currently on view in the Special Collections exhibit case outside Rm. 210 in the Williams Library.

To view these and other rare books and historical materials, contact Erin Kidwell – or Special Collections –, or visit us in Williams 210 M-F from 9am to 5pm.

GULLiver’s Believe it or Not: Smoking in the Library?

Student with pipe in Georgetown Law Library

Forget soda cans, noisy snacks, and aromatic carryout in the library – how about a late-night study buddy lighting up a stogie in the carrel behind you?

In 2012, it would be pretty much unthinkable (not to mention illegal*) to allow smoking anywhere inside the Georgetown Law Library. However, a new exhibit in the Williams Library highlights a time when cigarettes, pipes, and other types of tobacco were actually welcome within the library and Law Center, as elsewhere throughout society.

Stop by the Williams atrium display cases for some photos and facts that just might “blow” your mind. And remember, the only smoking allowed (and encouraged!) around here nowadays is of your exams – best of luck!

*D.C. Code § 7-1703(4) (2001).

New Exhibit: A Librarian, a Rare Book, and the Tides of Time

In early May 2012 Georgetown Law Library lost one of our longest serving librarians when the Head of Special Collections, Laura Bédard, passed away unexpectedly at age 55. Laura was the quintessential rare book librarian; she loved both old books and history. Her work gave her ample moments to pursue both these passions, and on one occasion this led her into her own family history. In 2005 we discovered an inscription by an Isadore Bedard in one of our 1829 volume of Les Statuts du Bas-Canada [Statutes of Lower-Canada]. As her family is of French-Canadian descent on her father’s side, Laura began researching her genealogy to see if there was any connection. She was delighted to discover that she and Isadore Bedard were indeed distant relations reunited by the ineffable tides of time.

One of the true joys of working with rare books and legal history is being able to, in a sense, time travel and experience still tangible parts of the past. Special Collections has created a small exhibit in our display case outside of Williams 210 celebrating Laura’s life at Georgetown Law that includes images from this volume of early Canadian statutes.