The New York Law Institute has a robust collection of rare and varied works on legal topics dating back to 1558.  Our holdings include rare medieval case reports in the form of Year Books of the Kings of England including Edward III, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, Henry VIII, Henry VI, Henry IV, Henry V, ranging from 1558 – 1605.  We have many treatises on the maritime laws of Europe including John Selden’s masterpiece  Mare clausum: The Right and Dominion of the Sea (London, 1663) which is signed by Alexander Hamilton.  We have the First Edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, 1765-1769, one of the most influential works in the development of the American legal system, works on Greek and Roman laws, Congressional papers dating back to 1791, the Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland from 1681 as well as Laws of the Scottish Borders, 1747. Our collection includes works by famous philosophers Hume and Bentham,  as well as the famous Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius including the 1773 edition of his masterwork De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres.

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Famous Provenance Collection

We have many books which have an impressive heritage, the most notable being Gen Washington’s copy of Corbin’s Code de Louis XIII, 1628.  We have several works signed by Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, as well as Brockholst Livingston who was associate counsel in celebrated trials of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Richard Harison and Egbert Benson, as well as a Supreme Court Justice of the United States, James Alexander, attorney on the landmark John Peter Zenger case, as well as John Chambers who was the substitute attorney in that same case and uncle to John Jay.  We have just shy of twenty titles from Chief-Justice John Jay‘s library, each with his signature.  We have several more signed by the hand of his eldest son Peter A. Jay.

Celebrated Trials Collection

An historic collection of hundreds of trials for murder, high treason, impeachment, poisoning, piracy, and murder on the high seas which includes official transcripts of trials, confessions and narrative accounts of cases in Great Britain and America since 1710.  Highlights of our collection include the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson of 1868, The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators, 1865, Aaron Burr’s treason trial, 1808, and many more including the Trial of John Peltier, esq for a Libel Against Napoleon Buonoparte, and the notable John Peter Zenger case which laid the foundation for freedom of the press in America.

The Charles O'Conor Collection

Charles O’Conor was a leading New York attorney with pronounced pro-Southern, pro-slavery views, who left the library $21,000, and the multi-volume bound sets of “My Own Cases” and “My Own Opinions,” relating to the most notable cases of his long career.  The volumes in this collection include the well-known Lemmon Slave Case of 1860 in which the “New York Court of Appeals made the strongest statement against slavery of the highest court of any state before the Civil War.”**  Interestingly, the judge presiding over this landmark case was Elijah Paine, Jr., former librarian at the New York Law Institute.  Also included in these cases are The New Almaden Mine case and the Vigilance Committee case.

The New York Collection

We have an impressive New York Collection including items such as The Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 1638-1674, the Duke of York’s Laws enacted at Easthampton, Long Island in 1664, city charters such as the Charter of the City of Brooklyn and the New York City Charter dating back to 1897, 19th century plans, maps and pamphlets relating to New York City, New York State Papers since 1777, Colonial Laws of New York dating back to 1664, Field’s Codification Pamphlets starting in 1847, Ordinances of the City of New York dating back to 1861, and The Public Papers of the Governors from 1888.

Early American Statutes & Laws

This collection of Early American state statutes and laws includes original charters of the American colonies, original editions of colonial, state, and territorial session laws, statutes, and codes such as Connecticut’s Code of 1650. It also encompasses special and unique items such as constitutions and laws of Native-American Indian tribes such as the Constitution, treaties and laws of the Chickasaw Nation, 1890 and the Laws of the Cherokee Nation, 1826, and the Statutes at large of the provisional government of the Confederate States of America, 1864.

The John Jay Collection

Consisting of just shy of twenty books, this is the legal reference library belonging to Chief Justice John Jay.  Fourteen of these rare books, safeguarded for more than a half century by the New York Law Institute, have John Jay’s signature on the title pages.  These were a gift given to the library by John Jay’s son, Peter Augustus Jay, a lawyer himself and also one of the founders of the New York Law Institute.

**Gordan III, John D. The Lemmon Slave Case. Newsletter of The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York Issue 4, 2006. Accessed 7/17/2013.