Guide to the Research Collections

- SECTION -- III -- THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
- PART ONE
- 38 -- LAW
- HISTORICAL SURVEY

HISTORICAL SURVEY

The basic law collection of the library came from the Astor Library. In 1854, Dr. Cogswell stated, "The collection is good on the civil law, embracing various editions of the Corpus Juris, and commentaries upon it; it contains also, all the codes of Scandinavia, and of other parts of Europe, during the middle ages; the system of jurisprudence as now practised in Italy, Portugal, Germany, Denmark and Sweden; the Fuerosa siete Partidas, and Recopilaciones of Spain, together with the digests and commentaries of the Musselman, Hindoo, Gentoo and Chinese laws. In French law, the Library is really rich, beginning with the Ordonances des Reis, and coming down to the very latest volume of the Journal du Palais. The selection for the English common law was made by two of the most eminent jurists in the country; it is not large, but very choice."1

Mr. Brevoort, in his Annual Report for the Astor Library in 1877, stated, "As there are, however, several libraries in the city especially devoted to the departments of theology, jurisprudence, medicine, natural history and geography, I have considered it advisable to direct the chief expenditure towards the completion of other important subjects."2 This policy was somewhat revised when a part of $12,000 given by J.J. Astor in 1882 was used to fill gaps in foreign jurisprudence, and a portion of $15,000 given by him in 1883 was allocated for general law materials.

With the Lenox Library came a notable collection of American laws and legislative journals printed before 1800 from the library of Dr. George H. Moore, purchased in 1894. A few law books came with the Tilden Trust, but Tilden's unusual law library went elsewhere.

A brief table shows the growth of the collections over the last hundred years:

1854 Astor Library3,107 volumes
1921 New York Public Library30,492
193043,032
194160,000
196683,700