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The Harvard Law School Library has custody of one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of research materials for the study of the history of the law. These collections attract visitors from Harvard and beyond, including those who come to the Root Room to consult materials first-hand; those who visit the Caspersen Room to view exhibits featuring material from Historical & Special Collections; and those who use the collections remotely via Harvard’s online catalogs, electronic resources, and digital collections.

Researchers working in the HLS Library Historical & Special Collections Root RoomElihu Root Room — The Root Room, located at the south end of the fourth floor in Langdell Hall, is the Historical & Special Collections reading room. It was named in honor of Elihu Root (1845-1937) when it was opened a year after his death. A leader of the American Bar, Root served on the League of Nations commission that framed the statute for the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1920. The room provides a secure and functional space for the use of the Library’s rare books, manuscripts, and visual materials. A portrait of Root, acquired by the Library in 1946, hangs outside the entrance to the Root Room.

Visitors in the HLS Library Caspersen RoomCaspersen Room — At the north end of the fourth floor main reading room is the Caspersen Room (formerly the Treasure Room), which serves as an exhibit hall for material in the Library’s collections and as a venue for special functions at the School. It was opened in 1948 as a memorial to the School’s students and alumni who died in World War I and II. For over six decades the room has been a showcase for printed books, manuscripts, art works, and memorabilia that document the history of the law and of the Harvard Law School. The Caspersen Room is the permanent home for some of the School’s finest works of art, including the portrait of Isaac Royall and his Family painted in 1741 by the American painter Robert Feke, portraits of English barristers painted by Romney and Raeburn, a Dutch case clock once owned by Dean Langdell, and the round desk built in 1927 for Dean Pound. The glass-fronted bookcases contain part of Dean Pound’s personal library.

The Caspersen Room is generally open to the public from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday (closed for special events).

For more information on how Historical & Special Collections came to be one of the premier collections for the study of the history of the law, please see our history page. For information on the history of our home, Langdell Hall, please see the Library’s history page.

Image Credit: Photos by Brooks Kraft, 2014.