Rare Books Collection at the University of Minnesota Law School


The Rare Books Collection at the University of Minnesota Law School was substantially developed by noted law librarian Arthur C. Pulling.  Between 1912 and 1942 Pulling assembled one of the strongest law collections in the United States, and one of the finest rare law collections. Early rare books acquisitions centered on English and American laws, law reports, abridgements, practice manuals, and treatises, from the early days of printing through the nineteenth century. Beyond historical Anglo-American law, the collection was enlarged to include classics of early international law, Roman and canon law, and foreign titles from Scandinavia, Russia, and colonial India, among other jurisdictions.  More recently, the major acquisition of Clarence Darrow's letters and related printed works has enlarged the collection.  Below is an overview of the Pulling Collection’s current strengths.

English Law

The collection of early English law, printed between 1490 and 1599, is one of the finest in the country, featuring over half of the titles found in Joseph Beale’s benchmark A Bibliography of Early English Law Books (1926). Included are rare editions of standout works, including titles by Bracton, Littleton, Fitzherbert and Rastell. A particular treasure is a set of fourteen editions of Magna Carta printed before 1600. Among works printed between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries are a wide range of English statutes, Year Books, nominative reports, abridgements, practice guides, treatises, trial accounts and dictionaries.

American Law

Early American law is also a strength, including early American laws and statutes from the original thirteen colonies, important documents of the American Revolution and early federal and state laws. Among highlights are editions of seventeenth-century laws from Virginia and Massachusetts, a 1776 edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and a rare copy of the proceedings of the first Continental Congress. Pre-statehood territorial laws, early commentaries on American law and printed trial accounts are also well represented.

The Clarence Darrow Collection

The Center holds the preeminent collection of letters to and from Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), widely regarded as the greatest American trial lawyer. The letters have been digitized as part of the Clarence Darrow Digital Collection, an award-winning research site. The site includes the letters and transcriptions, as well as digitized trial briefs, legal articles, pamphlets, photographs, and other items related to key Darrow cases. Beyond letters, the Center continues to add to its superb collection of printed works and photographs by and about Darrow and his life.

American Indian Law 

The Center has excellent holdings of American Indian law. The Library’s collection of rare folio treaties ranges from a treaty concluded in 1827 between the United States and the Ojibwa, Menomonie and Winnebago tribes, to an 1868 treaty with the Nez Perce, the last treaty signed between the United States and an American Indian tribe. Included are also primary materials of American Indian governments in the nineteenth century, both in English and the vernaculars.

The Hermann Kantorowicz Collection

In 1941, the Law Library acquired a significant collection of largely printed works from the personal library of renowned legal scholar, Hermann Kantorowicz. Ranging from sixteenth-century texts on Roman law, to nineteenth-century student lecture notes, and copies of important legal works with Kantorowicz's marks and annotations, the library comprises over 1,850 titles. Now assembled in the Riesenfeld Center, the collection is a resource for scholars and students of jurisprudence and legal history.  The titles in the collection can be viewed and downloaded here.

Other Collection Areas

The Collection features works related to slavery and abolitionism in the United States and early women’s rights movements, a superb collection of early Minnesota territorial and state law, and a strong collection of Roman and canon law and early international law. There are also notable holdings in rare foreign law of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Russian and Chinese law, and a collection of colonial Indian law that is unique in North America. A cherished rare law and literature collection comprises over one hundred titles.

The Rare Books Collection can be searched through the UMN library catalogs. For questions about authors, titles or research interests, please contact Ryan Greenwood (; 612-625-7323), Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections.