It was on this day in 1832 that the Law Library of Congress was created as a department of the Library of Congress by statute. Since that time, the Law Library has grown to be the largest law library in the world, featuring an unparalleled collection of domestic, foreign, international, and comparative legal materials. This collection is so large that the subbasement stacks of the Madison Building, which contains much of the Law Library’s collection, is an incredible one and a half football fields in length. But of course, the impressive collections are only half the story. The Law Library’s dedicated staff is what makes this collection accessible to patrons who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They make the collection accessible by providing reference services and issuing reports for Congress on US and foreign, international, and comparative law; providing webinars on how to research the law; maintaining and describing a vast collection of legal materials in a wide variety of languages; and through large scale digitization projects, such as digitizing the United States Serial Set.
To kick off the celebration of our anniversary, Rare Book Curator Nathan Dorn brings us a video concerning a recent rare book acquisition. Nathan explains that this work is
A 15th-century manuscript of a work on the laws of combat for knights called L’Arbre des Batailles [The Tree of Battles] by the Provençal author Honorat Bovet. This manuscript has previously been featured on In Custodia Legis. It contains discussions of legal and moral principles, issues of strategy and efficacy versus custom and virtue; it touches on the rules governing coats of arms and trial by combat; the author relates to various practical aspects of war, including compensation for combatants, ransom and relations with non-combatants. The book also contains a luxurious painted miniature that depicts L’Arbre de Douleurs [Tree of Suffering], a graphic image that Bovet uses as a pedagogical device in the work.
We also hope you can join us later today at 3 p.m. EDT for our anniversary event, “Lessons Learned from the Life of Constance Baker Motley: A Conversation with Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin.” Law Librarian of Congress Aslihan Bulut will interview Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin about her book, “Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle For Equality,” and the lessons learned from Constance Baker Motley’s life and work as a civil rights attorney; the first African American, female federal district court judge; and the first African American, female New York state senator.
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