The Rare Books Collection
There are over 2,600 titles in the Goodson Law Library Rare Books Collection, which is housed in the Marguerite F. and Floyd M. Riddick Rare Book and Special Collections Room on Level 3 of the Library (map) and in locked shelving on Level 1 of the Library. The collection includes works that are old, rare or contain interesting inscriptions. The collection consists primarily of English books published before 1800 and American imprints published before 1870, with a focus on early North Carolina law books. The oldest work in the collection is an annotated decree of Pope Gregory IX (1145-1241), dating from the 14th century. A new focus of collecting is justice of the peace manuals with an emphasis on manuals published in the antebellum south.
Highlights of the collection include:
Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769): Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries, based on lectures he delivered at Oxford University, are recognized as the first comprehensive synopsis of the common law and its foundation principles. Legal historians consider the Commentaries the single most influential book in the history of Anglo-American common law, and as having played a major role in the development of the American legal system. Abraham Lincoln famously read Blackstone to teach himself the law.
The Goodson Law Library is indeed fortunate to have two beautiful first editions of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769). In 1997 the Library added as its 500,000th volume a first edition of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) thanks to a gift from Frances Fulk Rufty J.D. '45 and the late Archibald C. Rufty. In 2014 the collection was further enriched with the donation by Colin Brown, J.D. '74, of a second four-volume Blackstone’s Commentaries, (1765-1769). These original volumes provide historians the opportunity to study the Commentaries as they were studied by early students of law, including American lawyers throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as to compare the first edition with later editions in the collection.
In his history of Duke Law School W. Bryan Bolich notes that in 1887, when the teaching of law was revived at Trinity College, the "topical outline [of the course] followed Blackstone’s Commentaries, the prescribed collateral text...." In 1907, Samuel Fox Mordecai, who headed the school of law established at Trinity College in 1904, published Law Lectures: A Treatise from a North Carolina Standpoint, on Those Portions of the First and Second Books of the Commentaries of Sir William Blackstone, Which Have Not Become Obsolete in the United States.
De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (approximately 1250-1259): De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae is the first systematic exposition of English law and an important historical record of the development of English law. The treatise includes a lengthy introduction showing the influences of Roman law and an explication of the practice of the courts and various forms of actions. It remains unfinished. For many years scholars thought this treatise was written by Henry de Bracton (d.1268) between 1240 and 1256; however, contemporary scholars believe it was begun much earlier and came into Bracton’s hands in the 1230s. Portions may have been rewritten after his death. The Library owns the first printed edition, published in London in 1569 by Richard Tottle, one of the great law printers of the 16th century.
Kent’s Commentaries on American Law (1826-1830): Like Blackstone’s Commentaries, James Kent’s Commentaries on American Law is an attempt to synthesize and analyze the law. It is one of the most important early American law books, and was reprinted throughout the19th century. In addition to writing the Commentaries, James Kent was a distinguished judge (he was chief justice of the New York Supreme Court and chancellor of the New York Court of Chancery) and the first professor of law at Columbia College. The Library owns several editions of Kent’s Commentaries, including a first edition donated in 1930 by William Sawyer, a New Hampshire judge and book collector, and the 12th edition, edited by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and one of the most important later editions.
Black’s Law Dictionary and Other Early Dictionaries: Thanks to the generosity of Judge David H. Allred, former Chief Administrative judge with the ICC and a Duke Law graduate, the Library recently acquired a near-perfect first edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. The reliance of the United States Supreme Court on law dictionaries, and in particular on Black’s, has been remarked on in law review articles and in an article in the New York Times. The Library’s collection includes copies of all editions of Black’s, which today is recognized as the American standard and a classic reference work.
Very early dictionaries in the collection include a 1641 edition of Rastell’s Les Termes De La Ley and Cunningham’s A New and Complete Law-Dictionary, published in 1764 in two volumes. The collection includes several editions of what was once the leading English law dictionary, Giles Jacob’s A New Law-Dictionary; the earliest is an English edition published in 1730, and the latest is an 1811 American edition.
Justice of the Peace Manuals: Early English and American justice of the peace manuals were written for lay officials living in times and places where training in the law was the exception, not the rule. Before the American Revolution less than 40 law books had been published in the colonies. Many were justice of the peace manuals, which focused on the rights of Englishmen, but in which English common and statutory law was modified to address the legal concerns of the colonists. George Washington, whose education ended when he was fifteen, was a Justice of the Peace, and his personal library included manuals from the late 1700s and early 1800s. These same titles are in the Goodson Law Library’s Justice of the Peace Manuals Rare Books Collection, which includes English and American titles and is a recent focus of collection.
The earliest manual in the Library’s collection is Eirenarcha, or, The Office of the Justices of the Peace. Eirenarcha was first published in 1582 during the reign of Elizabeth I; the Library’s copy was printed in 1594. Antebellum justice of the peace manuals published in the various states may be of special interest to legal historians researching how state laws differed in the treatment of slaves and free persons of color. Although of less importance today, the office still exists in the United States and commonwealth countries, and the Library continues to add to its collection of early manuals housed in the Rare Books Collection, and contemporary books about the office housed in the general classified treatise collection.
Writings of Importance to North Carolina Law
The Rare Books Collection contains writings of special importance to North Carolina (an early 18th century North Carolina Reports, for example) and to Duke, including several books by Samuel Fox Mordecai in addition to his Law Lectures. Lex Scripta (2d edition, 1905), a "pocket manual for the law students of Trinity College," contains the statutes that law students were expected to know (and on which they were tested). The privately published Mordecai’s Miscellanies (1927) is a collection of letters (to and from Mordecai), poems, and stories that he especially liked.
Over the years donations from Duke Law School faculty, alumni and friends have greatly enriched the Goodson Law Library. In addition to focused special collections, the Library has been the recipient of many special and rare books, and unique archival materials. Several notable materials are highlighted in the collections described here.
Duke Law Photograph Collection: This collection contains thousands of images of people, places, and events associated with the law school, taken by both professional and amateur photographers. The oldest picture in the collection dates to the late nineteenth century; however, the majority were taken after 1970. Events documented in the photos range from graduation and alumni weekend to informal social gatherings. The photographs were donated by law school departments including Alumni & Development, Communications, Dean’s Office, Law Library, and Student Affairs. For more information, see the finding aid.
Duke Law Class and Alumni Photograph Collection: Goodson Law Library maintains a collection of photos of alumni and group photos of graduating classes. Unfortunately the class photo collection is incomplete. While the oldest photo in the collection is from around 1925, most of the photos are from between 1932-1942 and 1975-2010. The alumni photos consist mainly of portraits but some candid shots are included. They depict attorneys, businessmen, and judges, and at least one political candidate, Richard Nixon. For more information please see the finding aid.
Duke Law School Miscellaneous Archives: The Miscellaneous Archives are a small collection of material that documents events and activities at Duke Law. These materials concern conferences, publications, fund raising, and student groups. They are somewhat random and piecemeal items held by the law school departments that created them until their donation to the law library. The collection is composed of six series: administrative, international studies, Board of Visitors and Law Alumni Association, faculty files, memorabilia, and publications. The majority of the collection was produced between 1990 and 2001, although a few items are much older. The publications series continues to the present. Despite the collection’s small size, it contains a great variety of material. The Publications/Promotional Material includes a small book published in memory of Samuel Fox Mordecai in 1932. The series also includes two other 1930’s university booklets autographed by Justin Miller. The Event-Related Material includes a sermon given by Dean Sneed in 1971 and a humorous description of the class of 1973 by graduate Rod Phelan. The administrative series contains information on dedication of the new building wing in 1995, the law library’s 500,000th volume ceremony and the Celebration of Women at Duke Law Symposium, both in 1997. There is also material on the planning and launch of the law school website in 1995. For more information about this collection, see the finding aid.
Howard Fields High Crimes and Misdemeanors Research on the Nixon Impeachment Collection: Howard Fields, a reporter with United Press International, covered the Watergate scandal in 1972, the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, and intervening events. In 1978 using this material and subsequent research and interviews, he wrote and published High Crimes and Misdemeanors: “Whereas Richard M. Nixon . . . Warrants Impeachment”: the Dramatic Story of the Rodino Committee. Fields donated this research, including audiotapes of the interviews, to the Goodson Law Library in 2011. Among the people Fields interviewed were Peter Rodino, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and James D. St. Clair, Nixon’s counsel. The tapes also include an audio recording of one of the 1977 Frost/Nixon interviews complete with a viewing audience’s incomprehensible commentary and laughter. For more information, visit the finding aid.
J. Marshall Doswell, Jr. Nuremberg Trials Collection: In addition to autographed and first edition books, this collection includes media about the trial, photographs and memorabilia related to the war crime trials such as a shoulder patch worn by U. S. special forces who served at Nuremberg during the trials. The collection, named in honor of his uncle, Marshall Doswell, is the ongoing gift of John Simpson of Charlotte, North Carolina. For more information, visit the finding aid.
The Little Rascals Day Care Case Papers concern allegations of child abuse against seven people involved with a day care in Edenton, North Carolina. All allegations were eventually found to be false, but between 1989 and 1998 several people spent months in jail and two were temporarily convicted. The collection contains a complete trial transcript of State v. Robert Kelly, the first individual accused. The eight-month trial was the most expensive in state history. The collection also contains pleadings and motions, correspondence, court forms and paperwork, interview transcripts, news coverage, and other material gathered as research by Kelly’s public defenders. For more information about the collection, please see the finding aid.
Nixon Watergate Letter to Judge John J. Sirica: Faced with a grand jury subpoena demanding that he turn over tapes of conversations thought to be related to the 1972 Watergate break-in, President Richard Nixon, J.D. ’37, wrote a personal letter to presiding Chief Judge Sirica of the D.C. district court. The letter argued executive privilege and “effectively launched the landmark case of U.S. v. Nixon,” a constitutional confrontation that riveted the nation and eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. The president’s letter of July 23, 1973, which was presented to his alma mater in 2005 as a gift from Judge Sirica’s son, John (Jack) Sirica, Jr., ’76, is a permanent part of the Goodson Law Library’s Special Collections. For more information, see the Duke Law news item Sirica and Nixon: A High Stakes Contest Over Executive Privilege.
Robert G. Seaks Letters: A recent addition to the Library’s special collections is a gift of over 150 letters written by Robert G. Seaks between 1931 and 1934 when he was a student at Duke Law School. The letters, which were donated by his son Terry G. Seaks, describe colorful classmates and professors, Seaks' blossoming social life, and the hardships he observed as he and his classmates struggled to get by during the Depression Era.
Robinson Everett Redistricting Cases Papers – Shaw v. Reno: Judge Robinson O. Everett, who taught on the Duke Law faculty for over 50 years, represented the plaintiffs in a series of four cases brought by North Carolina voters which questioned the drawing of voting districts following the 1990 census. The cases tell a story with close ties to Duke Law School, and a story in which for the first time in the Supreme Court’s history, law professors from the same school argued against each other. Shaw v. Reno was the first of the four cases to reach the Court.
Judge Everett’s papers from all four cases include litigation files and depositions, trial exhibits, correspondence, redistricting plans and maps, and other documents. The papers offer a detailed paper trail of the cases’ trajectory up and down the federal court system. For more information about this collection, see the finding aid and the library's post at The Goodson Blogson.
Several collections associated with the Riddicks are housed in the Goodson Law Library: some materials are in the Riddick Rare Books and Special Collections Room; other materials are shelved in the general library collection and marked with bookplates acknowledging their contributions. An article describing the Riddicks' contributions to the law school and Dr. Riddick's career in the Senate was published in the Winter 1993 issue of the Duke Law Magazine.
Autographed Senatorial Materials: The basis for Dr. and Mrs. Riddick's involvement with the Law Library is the collection of autographed senatorial books, which was donated to the Library in 1979. The collection consists of about 70 volumes written by members of the United State Senate and inscribed to Dr. Riddick during and after his service as Parliamentarian of the Senate. The collection includes signed copies of volumes written by Lyndon B. Johnson, Sam Ervin, and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as autographed copies of most of the works of former president and Duke Law alumnus, Richard M. Nixon. The collection is housed in the Riddick Room.
Writings of Dr. Riddick: Dr. Riddick is the author of Senate Procedure, which is considered to be the bible of U.S. Senate practice and procedure; the most recent (1992) edition is titled: Riddick's Senate Procedure. He is also the author of the earlier Congressional Procedure (1941), and a number of other books and articles on topics of legislative and parliamentary procedure, including Riddick's Rules of Procedure: A Modern Guide to Faster and More Efficient Meetings (1985). Copies of all editions of Dr. Riddick's writings, as well as bound transcripts of oral history interviews conducted with Dr. Riddick are in the Riddick Room.
Parliamentary and Legislative Procedure Materials: The Law Library's extensive collection of materials on United States and international legislative and parliamentary procedure consists largely of materials donated by Dr. Riddick or purchased through the Riddick Endowment. Most of these materials are in the general classified treatise collection and include bookplates acknowledging the Riddicks' contributions. The most recent addition to the parliamentary collection is a United States Senate Manual of 1907, stamped Mr. Justice Holmes on the cover and containing handwritten updates to a list of Supreme Court justices. This volume and a few autographed books are in the Riddick Room.
Congressional Materials: During his years as parliamentarian of the Senate and thereafter as parliamentarian emeritus, Dr. Riddick was involved in many major legislative and other activities of the Congress. The Riddick Room holds a set of congressional publications documenting these matters, many of which are linked to the volume of transcripts of Dr. Riddick's remembrances.
Dr. Riddick's Personal Library: The Law Library is the repository for Dr. Riddick's personal collection of books on American government and foreign policy; many of these titles date from his time as an undergraduate and doctoral student at Duke in the 1930s.