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Screenshot from signed Lieber Collection item page that reads “From the Library of G. Norman Lieber.”
Screenshot from “The use of the army in aid of the civil power,” page 2.

An Introduction to the Lieber Collection

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The following is a guest post by Bayleigh Baldwin, an intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. She is an undergraduate student studying history and Spanish at the University of California, Davis.

The digital Lieber Collection is a part of the Law Library’s Military Legal Resources Collection and is provided to the Library of Congress by the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center. The 154-item collection contains the library of Brigadier General Guido Norman Lieber and the items he inherited from his father, 19th-century “political philosopher and jurist,” Dr. Francis (Franz) Lieber. This blog post will summarize the background of the Lieber family and act as a guide to the contents of the collection.

Black and white photo of Brigadier General Guido Norman Lieber sitting in military regalia between 1905 and 1945.
LIEBER, NORMAN J. GENERAL. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Between 1905 and 1945. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

The Lieber Family

Black and white portrait of Francis sitting from between 1855 and 1865.
Prof. Frances Lieber. Between 1855 and 1865. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Dr. Francis Lieber was born in Germany in 1798. He is most known for writing the Lieber Code, the “first modern codification of the laws of war,” which established the guidelines for the Union Army’s conduct during the U.S. Civil War. All three sons of Francis Lieber and his wife, Matilda, would serve during the Civil War, though on opposing sides of the battlefield. Their oldest son, Oscar Lieber, wrote three publications in geology that can be found in this collection. His brother, Guido Norman Lieber, was the youngest of the three sons and worked to maintain the legacy of the Lieber Code throughout his life. Guido Norman Lieber was promoted to brigadier general of the U.S. Army in 1885. In the same year, he began to lead the Judge Advocate General’s Department, and he would become the longest holder of the position in the Army’s history. The Judge Advocate General’s Department has held the Lieber Collection since 1947 when BG Lieber’s daughter Mrs. C. F. Stearns (Amelia Lieber) gifted the collection to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. It has remained at the JAG Legal Center in Charlottesville, Virginia since 1965.


Simple Lieber family tree displaying the names of Francis Lieber, his three sons Oscar M. Lieber, Hamilton Lieber, Guido Norman Lieber, and the daughter of GN Lieber, Amelia Lieber.
Lieber family tree. Created by author.

The Contents of the Collection

The Lieber Collection covers a variety of subjects and research needs. To begin, the collection is multilingual. There are 116 items in English, 25 in German, 7 in Latin, and 4 in French. Two linguistic outliers remain: a dissertation in both Latin and German and “Novum Testum Tetraglotton,“ the New Testament in four languages (English, German, Latin, and Greek.)

Table showing the number of collection items in different languages. There are 116 items in English, 25 in German, 7 Latin, and 4 in French.
Table listing the language distribution of items within the Lieber Collection. Created by author.

Additionally, most materials were created in the 19th century, with 136 out of the 154 items being created in that period. The average year of publication or creation for all the items is 1846, 17 years before the issuance of the Lieber Code. The earliest created item in the collection is the Latin and German dissertation on military deserters from 1714. On the other hand, the latest dated item is a telegram to the Judge Advocate General’s Department from 1933.

The most common types of publication in the collection are published books and pamphlets. Any pamphlet from the last 500 years can generally be defined as “a complete work, shorter than a book, bound (if at all) in wrappers, plain or printed.” However, the pamphlets in this collection represent the 18th-century trend of spreading political opinion writing through pamphlets. Sixteen of the pamphlets in the collection came from the same slipcase, titled “Pamphlets Vol. II.”

The collection also spans a variety of legal and historical topics for anyone to explore. It includes works related to military law, constitutional law, international law, criminal law, political science, economics, European history, and legal history. Importantly, the Lieber Code itself is valuable for learning about the beginnings of international humanitarian law. Here is a selection of items written by members of the Lieber family:

Items written by Francis Lieber related to law and political science:

Items written by BG Lieber on military and constitutional law:

Items written by Oscar Lieber on geology:

Additional Items

Tan needlepoint bookmark with the German words “Gott liebe Dich” stitched in red thread.
Needlepoint bookmark. Library of Congress Lieber Collection.

The Lieber Collection contains more than just books and pamphlets. One of my favorite items in the collection is this needlepoint bookmark with the German words Gott Liebe Dich, or “God loves you” in English, sewn in red thread. The bookmark was originally found within the pages of the item “Novum Testamentum Tetraglotton.”

More noteworthy items include:

What else will you discover?

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