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The Art Collection and Visual Materials Collections documents the legal profession and the history of the law with paintings, sculpture, photographs, prints, drawings and artifacts. It was gathered initially by Dean Roscoe Pound and Librarian Eldon Revare James. It consists of over 45,000 items, including portraits of lawyers and judges, and prints and sculptures with legal themes. Over 300 paintings and sculptures are on display throughout the School. Some of the most outstanding of these, along with the rare volumes on law, are kept in the Caspersen Room. The rest, some 6,000 prints and over 40,000 photographs, are a valuable resource of the Library. All are available for reproduction in books and other publications, for display in exhibitions, television programs, and other media. A collection of materials that forms a visual history of the Law School is also available.

The Legal Portrait Collection

The Print Collection

The Memorabilia Collection

The Legal Portrait Collection

The Legal Portrait Collection, displayed throughout the school, consists of over 300 painted and sculpted portraits of significant figures from the Anglo-American legal tradition. Aside from subject matter the collection is also notable for the artists represented such as Gilbert Stuart, Robert Feke, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and others.

The Print Collection

The collections of prints and photographs are mixed media collections which have been organized around certain subject areas. They consist of over 50,000 images representing the full range of historical and contemporary photographic and printing processes. Portrayed are current and past faculty members, alumni, class groups, Harvard Law School buildings, U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and notable criminals. Copy photographs of original artwork are another important part of the collection.

The following is a partial list of the subject collections:

  • Clyde Ferguson
  • William Henry Hastie
  • Sacco-Vanzetti Case
  • Tichborne Trials
  • Wood Detective Agency
  • Edward Dumbauld
  • Robert Ehrman
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • Felix Frankfurter
  • Harvard Law School Deans
  • Harvard Law School Buildings
  • Louis Brandeis
  • Vanity Fair Caricatures
  • British Satiric Prints
  • Poster Collection
  • Court Architecture

The print collection of over 6,000 items includes such diverse materials as the famous “Spy” prints of legal figures, cartoons by Honoré Daumier, and eighteenth and nineteenth century British satirical prints. Subjects depicted include famous trials, prisons, court architecture, legal costume, and portraits of important legal figures.

  • Vanity Fair
  • British Satiric Prints
  • Poster Collection

The Memorabilia Collection

The memorabilia collection includes historic furniture, artifacts from the legal profession; personal items from HLS faculty and other prominent legal figures; and objects of interest from famous trials creating what is in effect a small ‘museum of legal antiquities. Some of these items can be seen in temporary exhibitions, and a few are on permanent display in the Caspersen Room.

The following are few examples from this unique array of artifacts:

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s lunch box
  • Dean Roscoe Pound’s eyeshade and cigar humidor
  • Sir Hardinge Stanley Giffard’s bag used to carry the Great Seal of England
  • Christopher Columbus Langdell’s Dutch Case Clock
  • Joseph Story’s ‘banjo’ style wall clock

For questions about Art and Visual Materials, please contact:

Lesley Schoenfeld, Public Services & Visual Collections Administrator
Phone: 617.495.4689

Image credit: Detail of  Women graduates, Harvard Law School Class of 1953, by Melvin Robbins, 1988/1995, HOLLIS 8001504382, Harvard Law School Library. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.