Centers of legal history: the Robbins Collection

First of all an apology: I have been just too busy this month with other activities and duties, including work on my new website, to publish new posts on this blog. Today’s post might offer you some solace…

The Robbins Collection

Perhaps you know already about the Robbins Collection at Boalt Hall, the library for legal history of the University of California at Berkeley. This library started in 1952. In 1970 Stephan Kuttner, the founder of the Institute of Medieval Canon Law, now in Munich, became its director. The Robbins Collection with over 300,000 volumes is not just one collection, it brings together collections on civil law, religious law and comparative law. One of its strengths is the collection of European law books from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. In the field of religious law you will find not only works on canon law, the law system of the Catholic church, but also on Jewish and Islamic law. The Robbins Collection offered from 1970 a fitting surrounding for David Daube, the most versatile scholar of legal history of his generation. For Daube no boundaries existed between research on history, law systems and religions: the essays in the commemorative issue from 2004 of the online journal Roman Legal Tradition will give you some idea of the sheer width of Daube’s research. The Robbins Collection has its own publication series in which the collected articles of Daube have been published. On the website of the library you get an impression of some of the books in the rich collections: there are online exhibitions on The Medieval Law School and The Roman-Dutch Legal Tradition; you can also consult the manuscript and incunables catalogue online. Manuscripts from the collections can be seen on the Digital Scriptorium, a website originally at Berkeley but recently moved to Columbia University, New York. The Robbins Collection organizes regularly conferences and lectures on legal history.

An addendum: thanks to Mike Widener (Yale University) I was alerted to another online exhibition at the website of the Robbins Collection, called Milestones in Legal Culture and Traditions which offers a general introduction to the various collections at Boalt Hall. It seems now I had simply overlooked the general link to the exhibits on the Robbins Collection website. A fourth exhibit from 2008 was held on Famous Trials and their Legacies. A fifth exhibit from 2012 presents California’s Legal Heritage, with links to digitized books.

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