Category Archives: Special Collections

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

Happy 800th Birthday Magna Carta!

King John sealing Magna Carta

800 years ago today King John met the rebel Barons at Runnymede to sign and seal what would become known to posterity as Magna Carta, or the Great Charter. While King John may indeed have signed and sealed it on this day eight centuries ago, he had no intention of honoring it. He’d already made plans to appeal to the Pope to have the Charter nullified for having been signed under duress, which news he shared with his English subjects in early August of 1215 thus plunging the realm back into the turmoil of civil war. Fortunately for posterity, John would not outlive the conflict and upon his death in 1216, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and the newly appointed Regent to John’s son and now King, Henry III, reissued a revised version of the Charter. Marshall would again reissue it in 1217, and King Henry III would himself reissue it upon reaching his majority in 1225. It was only at this point in history that the Charter was titled Magna Carta in order to distinguish it from the Charter of the Forest clauses which had been reissued as a separate charter. Henry’s son, Edward I, would also reissue Magna Carta by having Parliament enact it in 1297 thereby securing its place in English legal history as the ‘first statute.’ It is in this later form that Magna Carta would come to be revered and appealed to as guaranteeing the rights of English, and later colonial American, subjects.

In honor of this 800th anniversary day, Georgetown Law Library is pleased to announce a small online collection of annotated late 16th and early 17th century imprints of the statutory compilation titled – Magna Carta cum Statutis. While all of Georgetown Law’s five annotated imprints have notations throughout in law-French, the professional language of English lawyers of the day, only three of them have extensive notations on the leaves containing Magna Carta and the 1608 imprint contains no notations about Magna Carta at all. The most extensive annotations are in copy 1 of the 1587 imprint that was signed by its owner on the title page – “Liber Richardi Bell de Grais Inn” [Richard Bell of Gray’s Inn’s book]. Complete images of all the leaves in these five imprints are available through Digital Georgetown.


Bell’s notations on clause 29 (clauses 39 and 40 of the 1215 Charter), known today as the Due Process Clause.

We have also prepared a research guide on the history and legacy of Magna Carta. This guide includes links to treatises, articles, and books.

Marion Barry – In Memoriam

The Law Center Archives houses a number of unique audio visual materials. Below is a clip of Marion Barry speaking at the McDonough Hall counter-dedication in September of 1971. Marion Barry was the director of the group Pride, Inc. at the time. He was joined by William Kunstler, Esq. , Catherine G. Roraback, a defense attorney in the New Haven Black Panther trial, and Arthur Kinoy, a law professor and activist from Rutgers University. At the counter-dedication Marion Barry asked students to fulfill their responsibility to the community around them.

Marion BarryFor more information on the counter-dedication of McDonough Hall stop by Special Collections in Williams 210 or email .

Mass Murder, Mayhem and Hangings….

Special Collections gets Spooktacular!

In the spirit of all things spooky, creepy and otherwise ghastly the following is a horror story straight from the Special Collections vault.img001All good horror stories start out as, one fine and pleasant day, but Saturday the 7th of July, 1838 turned out to be a gruesome day in Greensburg, Kentucky for Lucinda White and her family, who were brutally murdered, along with the family horse, for their money and possessions. It would be 18 months before the suspicion of murder was brought up and a warrant issued for the arrests of Carrington Simpson, Pleasant Saddler and Jason Bell. Simpson, Saddler and Bell had agreed to help Lucinda White, her two sons Lewis White and John Quincy White along with his wife Matilda and their 2 year old son William move to Alabama. Simpson was known to be a man into his drink, “petulant” and “a general wrong-doer…a terror to the neighborhood in which he lived.”(Allen, William. A History of Kentucky) Together, Simpson, Saddler and Bell murdered the 5 Whites. The victims’ bodies were deposited in an abandoned cabin on Simpson’s land and covered with tobacco stalks. It wasn’t until Matilda’s father Daniel Kessler was unsuccessful in contacting her in Alabama and the clothes of the White family were seen being worn by Simpson’s family that the suspicion of foul play was considered. Simpson was arrested in March of 1840. After his arrest, a search party was organized to look for the bodies and once discovered, Simpson finally admitted to the crime. Saddler and Bell were both arrested shortly thereafter as a result of being implicated by Simpson. Both Saddler and Bell escaped their sentences and would die in jail before they were to be executed by hanging. It was rumored that Saddler smothered Bell in their jail cell and then hung himself. Justice was served to Simpson though, who was lead to the gallows on 21st of September 1841. Of some unique interest, the executioner James B. Montgomery, charged $5.00 for the gallows and $1.00 for the rope according to account books.

img002The Carrington Simpson case materials are a recent manuscript addition to Special Collections. The documents which span 1840-1841 were compiled by Samuel A. Spencer, Simpson’s defense attorney. They include Simpson’s confession, attorney notes, lists of jurors, depositions of witness, account books and diaries. It is an interesting example of defense documents from the mid-19th century. Though the crime happened in a small town, the perpetrators were judged by two local justices before standing trial in circuit court. This collection has become part of the growing collection of practitioner’s papers from the 18th and 19th centuries. For more information regarding this collection and other historical collections please visit Special Collections in Williams 210 or contact Special Collections at

Happy Halloween from Special Collections.

Restoring Lost Lambs to the Fold: completing the Lord Eldon Library

Over the course of the last year the Georgetown Law Library has been able to acquire two significant additions to the Lord Eldon Library Collection: Francis Plowden’s 1803 An historical review of the state of Ireland; and, Lord Eldon’s 125 volume collection of political pamphlets – the Lord Eldon Pamphlets. The latter also contained a volume of Parliamentary Reports from the Committees of Secrecy in 1794. We believe that with these additions the Lord Eldon Library Collection now contains all of the books collected by Lord Chancellor Eldon during his professional life, as well as the manuscript codices he produced or collected. The Lord Eldon Library collection provides an invaluable look into the professional life of one of 19th century Britain’s most influential lawyers. A short biography of Lord Eldon and complete lists of the titles within the Lord Eldon Library and the Lord Eldon Pamphlets are available here.

The Lord Eldon Pamphlets collection contains 1059 titles covering a wide range of subjects including, the debates over the re-introduction of civil jury trials and other reforms to Scotland’s legal system, the debates over Catholic Emancipation, various proposals to modify Britain’s financial systems, proposals for making and keeping the peace with France, proposals to reform the Court of Chancery, proposals for penal reform, proposals for ending the Slave Trade, and debates over the 1801 Union with Ireland, among many other political topics. There are even literary, agricultural, and scientific pamphlets. It is a diverse collection reflecting both Lord Eldon’s interests and the interest of authors in gaining the notice of his attention throughout his professional career by sending him presentation copies. Lord Eldon had apparently even acquired a few of his brother Lord Stowell’s collected pamphlets as several are signed “William Scott” or “W.S.” In contrast to the majority of the books in the original Middle Temple Lord Eldon Library collection a significant number of the pamphlets are annotated in Lord Eldon’s hand, especially those dealing with Chancery issues and Catholic Emancipation. Regrettably, some of those annotations were cropped when the pamphlets were bound together into their respective volumes.

Eldon Pamphlets blog pic

To access the Lord Eldon Library or 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.

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.

Economic Opportunity Act, signed August 20, 1964

President_Johnson_08201964_UPI_NEJLFifty Years ago today, on August 20, 1964, President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law, creating the Community Action Program, Job Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). A legislative history of the Economic Opportunity Act is available via HeinOnline’s Taxation and Economic Reform in America series.

1991 oral history interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton focusing on her career in legal services now available online

H_Rodham_Clinton_1991_NEJL_OHIn the videotaped interview, which was conducted by Victor Geminiani in 1991 on behalf of the National Equal Justice Library Oral History Project, Hillary Rodham Clinton recalls her education and career working for legal services from the late 1960s until the early 1980s. Ms. Rodham Clinton got involved with legal services while she was a law student at Yale, where she started volunteering for the New Haven Legal Services organization, one of the first Ford Foundation “Gray Area” model projects. After graduating in 1973, she started working full time as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund, which was founded by Marian Wright Edelman, a fellow Yale graduate whom she had met during her first months in law school. Hillary Rodham had interned for the Washington Research Project, CDF’s parent body, during law school. At CDF, she worked on education and juvenile justice law reform, allowing her to combine her “legal interests and public policy interests.”

In early 1974, Hillary Rodham accepted an offer by John Doar to work on the President Nixon impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C. along with several other young lawyers. After President Nixon’s resignation on August 8th, 1974, she followed Bill Clinton, whom she had been dating, to Arkansas, where he had started teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville. She got a job at the same law school, and started teaching in the fall of 1974. The dean had asked her to teach criminal law, run a legal aid clinic, and a project providing legal assistance to prisoners in the federal and state penitentiaries. In the interview, she recalled the efforts to gain support for the school’s legal aid program from the Arkansas Bar Association, and the difficulties that legal aid programs in Arkansas faced at the time. After gaining better support for the school’s legal aid program from the Bar Association, she submitted an application to receive federal funding through the Legal Services Corporation. The application was successful, and the program eventually became the Ozark Legal Services. In 1975, she was appointed to the Arkansas State Advisory Committee for the LSC, where she worked on the state-wide expansion of legal services. President Carter appointed Mrs. Rodham Clinton to the LSC Board in 1977 (both she and her husband had worked on Carter’s campaign), and she succeeded Roger C. Cramton as Chairperson of the LSC Board in 1978 and served in this capacity until 1981.

During her tenure at the LSC, the budget increased from $96 million during the President Ford administration to over $300 million. The board oversaw the LSC under the presidents Thomas Ehrlich and Dan Bradley during the rapid expansion of legal services into many previously underserved areas, building a broad, yet solid infrastructure. Tied to the expansion, the board worked on improving access to legal services, and focused on quality, ensuring that delivery systems were the best ones available. During this period, the LSC oversaw the 1007 (h) study, which was mandated by Congress to research the access problems of particular constituency groups such as Native Americans, and initiated the Delivery Systems Study, which analyzed a variety of different systems for the delivery of legal services.

The real strength of the program has been the way it “responded to a very significant need in society,” but did so in an “effective and professional manner,” Rodham Clinton emphasized, so that it was able to withstand the political pressures the federally funded program faced throughout much of its history. She concluded the interview by expressing the hope that the program will continue to grow, and that there will be a lot of room for new people and new ideas, while legal services advocates continue to ask the hard questions: “What’s our purpose, how are we doing it, are we doing it the best way we can, are we meeting our clients’ needs?”

The original interview was recorded on VHS. The full-length digitized interview, which also includes a transcript, is part of the NEJL oral history collection.

Accessing Special Collection’s New Finding Aids

The Special Collection finding aids have been updated and are now accessible for download and searching.  You can discover the finding aids for the Manuscript Collections ( and the National Equal Justice Library (

Below are some of the ways you can search the Special Collection finding aids.

Keyword Searching

Start by accessing the Special Collections main page using the link below.

The easiest way to search all of the Special Collection finding aids is currently by keyword:  Go to the search box, and click search this collection (this will apply to all the SPECL collections that are in Digital Georgetown, including the finding aids).  To you can also use this search method in the separate collections called “Finding Aids” under both the Manuscripts and NEJL sub-collections (following the links above).


Browse by Author or Subject

You can also search the collections by author or subject from the Law Library’s main page (shown above and below) or within the National Equal Justice Library or the Manuscripts Collection sub-collections (use the links above):



Using the Filter

To use the filter option you have to have already performed a search. The images below will walk you through using the filtered search function.  To note, the filtered search is case sensitive, so use a capital “A” in Finding Aids.

Step 1 Begin Your Search:


Step 2 Add Filter:


Step 3 Choose Filter Options:


Step 4 Add “Finding Aid” to Filter:


Step 6 Run Filter Search:


If you have any problems accessing finding aids or issues searching, please contact Special Collections at .

Reflections on a Bibliography, Fifty Years Later

[Reposted from the NEJL blog]

By Elisa Minoff

“Selected Readings in Law and Poverty” is a remarkable document. bellow_titleGary  Bellow compiled the bibliography with the help of several law students in 1964, for a course he was teaching at Georgetown Law called Poverty and the Administration of Justice. At the time, Bellow was a young public interest lawyer working at the Legal Aid Agency of the District of Columbia. Bellow would later work at two other organizations funded the United Planning Organization (a community action agency in DC) and California Rural Legal Assistance (a pioneering legal services organization serving California’s farm workers)—before leaving legal practice for academia, where he helped found modern clinical legal education.

In 32 well-organized and quickly-digestible pages, the bibliography transports us back in time to those heady early days of the War on Poverty. It reminds us that what we have come to think of as the intellectual influences on the War on Poverty amount to only a sliver of the popular and scholarly writing on poverty at the time. And it gives us a taste of the ambition of practitioners like Bellow who were considering how to use the law in the fight against poverty.


Ben Bagdikian. In the Midst of Plenty: The Poor in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Part I of the Bibliography, “The Elements of Poverty,” is most interesting to the general historian and reader. In it, Bellow and his fellow contributors list some of the most influential works on poverty from the early 1960s. Notably, the list does not stop at Michael Harrington’s The Other America or Ben Bagdikian’s In the Midst of Plenty. Bellow wanted to stimulate “law students in becoming more concerned with the legal problems of the poor and the urban condition,” as he wrote in the introduction. Accordingly, the selections tend to focus on the underlying causes of poverty, especially urban poverty, and the structural conditions that account for its persistence. Subsections on politics, race, class structure, and psychology include works by Saul Alinksy, Seymour Martin Lipset, Herbert Gans, Oscar Lewis, Ralph Ellison and Charles E. Silberman. These books were not low-circulation editions read by a handful of academics and poverty experts, but trade (and in some cases mass-market) paperbacks that became part of the larger public discourse about contemporary social problems.


Oscar Handlin. The Newcomers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

As a historian of migration and social welfare, I was particularly excited to see Oscar Handlin’s The Newcomers listed among the “General Considerations.” Handlin was a prolific historian of immigration who had written the pulitzer-prize winning The Uprooted in 1951. In the late 1950s, he had turned to the study of contemporary internal migration. In The Newcomers, Handlin chronicles the experiences of Puerto Ricans and African Americans who had recently moved to New York City. When Handlin published The Newcomers, popular commentators had begun to blame migrants for the struggles of America’s inner cities, and social workers had come to believe that helping migrants “adjust” or “assimilate” to urban life was a prerequisite to solving urban poverty. Migration, in other words, was very much a part of the debate about poverty in the years leading up to Lyndon Johnson’s declaration, and Bellow’s bibliography manages to capture this too.

Considering the trends in anti-poverty research over the last several decades, the subsection on “The Psychology of Poverty” is particularly interesting. Psychology is yet another subject that has been largely missing from discussions of poverty, but was very much a part of the debates in the 1960s. Historian Alice O’Connor describes the “behavioral sciences revolution” that infused poverty research in the 1950s and 60s.  During these years, the National Institute of
Mental Health funded a number of influential studies and conferences on poverty. Bellows himself admitted to being especially concerned with the psychology of the poor. As he observed in a fascinating interview in 1964: ”It seems to me that poverty is something more than just economic deprivation. It seems to be characterized by a psychological dimension,
a feeling of hopelessness, of powerlessness, of an inability among the poor as we call them to belong to any institution or feel a part of our society.” (Bellows and others involved in the legal services movement, believed that the law could help the poor combat this feeling of
powerlessness bring them into the fold of American society.) In later years, anti-poverty activists became disenchanted with psychology as a subject that could help explain poverty’s persistence and gravity. After decades of marginalization, however, psychology is once again a part of
the discussion, as researchers have started to unveil the long-lasting repercussions of phenomena like poverty-induced toxic stress in early childhood.


Oscar Lewis. The Children of Sanchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family. New York: Random House, 1964.

(As a footnote on the subject of psychology and poverty, Bellow includes Oscar Lewis’ book, The Children of Sanchez, in the list of works on psychology. In this book, Lewis develops his idea of a culture of poverty—another concept that has recently enjoyed something of a rebirth).

What is most notable about Part II of the bibliography, “The Legal Problems of the Poor,” is how broadly Bellow conceived these problems. Among the legal problems of the poor highlighted in the bibliography are housing issues, such as urban renewal and relocation, zoning, and landlord tenant disputes; consumer protection issues, such as loan and debt problems and purchasing on credit; criminal justice issues, such as arrest and the right to counsel; as well as, to randomly select just a few: juvenile delinquency, unemployment compensation, and discrimination. Part II, which primarily consists of law review articles, includes much more technical works than Part I, which is populated with books by academics, journalists, and activists written for a general audience. But the technicality does not suggest narrow or small mindedness. Poverty law, a la Bellow, addressed any and all issues that arose in the everyday lives of America’s poor. It was far more than the law of public assistance benefits.

Bellow’s bibliography poses something of a challenge to scholars concerned with poverty today: to think broadly, and ambitiously, about the problems of the poor, and to circulate our ideas widely so that they too may become part of the public discourse—fifty years after the War
on Poverty.


About the author: Elisa Minoff is a political and legal historian, who will be teaching as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Florida beginning in the fall of 2014. She has  conceptualized and developed the collaborative War on Poverty bibliography, which is available as a google doc.

More information about the bibliography can be found on NEJL’s War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website.

Related resources:

Selected Readings in Law and Poverty,” prepared by Gary Bellow for a seminar at Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and the Administration of Justice taught in 1964-1965.

Interview with Gary Bellow on the “Role of the Lawyer and the Problem of Poverty” by Richard D. Capparella, District Roundtable, WWDC, May 9, 1964. Gary Bellow collection, NEJL. The reformatted vinyl recording is available as a streaming mp3 file at: