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The Expected & Unexpected

Harvard Law School Library Historical & Special Collections Exhibitions

Ws and Fs were the most frequently decorated capitals in law books, with many different styles appearing in a single edition.

Harvard Law School Library’s Special Collections

Harvard Law School Library
Caspersen Room
July 13, 2008 — October 31, 2008
Monday — Friday, 9:00am — 5:00pm

Housed within the largest academic law library in North America, the Harvard Law School Library Special Collections Department holds much of what you would expect:  early editions of Blackstone, Coke, and Littleton;  the papers and correspondence of many faculty and alumni;  primary materials covering early English, Continental, and US laws;  institutional records and publications;  as well as photographs and portraits of classes, faculty, and alumni.

But one can also find a great deal that is unexpected:  beautiful book bindings that once seemed commonplace;  stories revealed by the personal effects of great legal minds;  historical events overlooked by time or modern sensibilities;  and early printed decorative initials that range from the enchanting and winsome to the macabre.

The Expected & Unexpected: Harvard Law School Library’s Special Collections features material drawn from all collecting areas in Special Collections:  Rare Books and Early Manuscripts, Modern Manuscripts and Archives, the Red Set, and Art and Visual Materials.  The exhibit also provides examples of some recent scholarship that has used material from the Collection—some of which is in itself unexpected.  We hope that this exhibit will serve not only as a reminder of what the Law Library has to offer for those interested in legal research, but also emphasize the diversity of the collection and encourage researchers from all academic disciplines to visit our Collections.

Actes made at a Parliament begun and holden at Westminster...
[Public General Acts. 1556-1558. 4-5 Philip and Mary] (detail)
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