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Photograph of typed letter from Oliver Wendell Holmes to Felix Frankfurter, dated November 11, 1927.
Credit: Holmes to Frankfurter, Nov. 11, 1927, Mark DeWolfe Howe Research Materials, Box 2-19, seq. 16, Harvard Law School Library

What is in the Modern Manuscripts Collection?

In 1964 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote to Professor Alexander M. Bickel of the Yale Law School, “…all my private papers pertaining to my work as an Associate Justice are eventually to go into your keeping for ultimate permanent deposit in the Harvard Law School.” These papers became the nucleus of the Harvard Law School Library’s Modern Manuscript Collection.

This collection contains the papers of eminent nineteenth- and twentieth-century jurists, legal educators, and attorneys. Representative of the collection are the papers of:

In addition to these personal papers, the collection also includes the records of important law cases and selected organizations, such as:

The Modern Manuscripts also include over 440 small collections of individual letters and documents of personal papers or records relating to legal matters. Most of these date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Modern Manuscript Search Tools

The following tools can assist you in your research:

  • HOLLIS for Archival Discovery: the central access point for Harvard University’s archival and manuscript finding aids. With HOLLIS for Archival Discovery, researchers may search finding aids from the Law School Library and across Harvard, view the full text of a finding aid, and search by keyword within that finding aid.
  • Check out the HOLLIS for Archival Discovery research guide for search tips.
  • To learn more about how archives and manuscript collections are created by people and organizations, acquired by libraries, analyzed by archivists, opened for research, and used by researchers, review The Hows and Whys of Finding Aids, created by Harvard’s Houghton Library staff.

For preservation purposes, if a manuscript has been microfilmed or digitized (or if any facsimile is available), researchers must use the digital or microfilm copy.

How do I find out if a manuscript collection has been digitized?

A growing number of the Law School Library’s Manuscript collections have been digitized, either in whole or in part, as a result of the Library’s ongoing effort to preserve our collections and make them more accessible.