Yale Law School, one of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the nation, has acquired an extremely old and prestigious collection of historical legal manuscripts. The school has spent the last five years negotiating with London barrister and legal historian Anthony Taussig, who has agreed to give a small portion of his historical materials to Yale for an undisclosed amount of money.
The school has arranged to purchase 200 books and 400 manuscripts from Taussig’s collection.
The manuscripts will bolster an already impressive collection at Yale’s Lillian Goldman Law Library. The library has a focus on the works of William Blackstone, a 16th century attorney whose work played a key role in the development of the American legal system, and the collection acquired from Taussig will add 23 additional Blackstone books to the school. The school also sought manuscripts that focus on the efforts to reform the law.
The National Law Journal reports that other highlights from the collection include the first book of English law, a 1481 abridgement of statutes; the first English book about women’s legal rights from 1632; and a pamphlet about the 1772 Sommerset case, which outlawed slavery in the British Isles. The collection also includes correspondence from and about Blackstone, and 207 letters written to 18th century attorney William Tidd.
“There is a bit of a museum aspect to this,” said Mike Widener, the library’s rare book librarian. “We demonstrate to law students that they are joining a profession with a long, illustrious and important history. The collection offers a physical connection to legal history, and they show us how lawyers have used these resources. They are all marked up by those that used them.”