Joseph Story was a lawyer, beloved teacher, prolific author and Supreme Court justice. The Harvard Law School Library has curated a collection of original documents and images from his life, legacy and world in a new exhibit, “A Storied Legacy: Correspondence and Early Writings of Joseph Story,” on view in the Caspersen Room, Harvard Law School Library, through December 7, 2012. Complementing and expanding upon the exhibit is a new Joseph Story Digital Suite.
Story (1779–1845) was uniquely important to American jurisprudence and to the Harvard Law School, where he taught as Dane Professor from 1829 until his death. With the Court (established in 1789) and the Law School (founded in 1817) still in their early years, Story was in the right place and time to exert a lasting influence on both institutions.
In the exhibit, selections of original documents from four HLS Library collections attest to Story’s scholarly and judicial abilities, and reveal glimpses of the close friendships he formed with the leaders of his day. Written when he was a young lawyer, his three-volume Digest of Various Court Decisions prefigured his approach to legal analysis, which he used in his Commentaries decades later.
Story’s Papers, 1796–1845 include correspondence with leading legal and social figures of Massachusetts and beyond, as well as a manuscript draft of his Commentaries on the Law of Promissory Notes. The Story-Pitman correspondence (from the John Pitman collection), spanning 1817 to 1845, sheds light on the close professional and personal association of Justice Story and judge Pitman of Rhode Island, who served together on the First Judicial Circuit. Complementing these components are images of Story from the Harvard Law Library’s Art and Visual Materials Collection.
All documents and visual images from these four collections have been fully digitized and are available in the Joseph Story Digital Suite, searchable by name, date, collection, and other criteria.
The exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Margaret Peachy, Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library. The suite was the product of many individuals’ talent and hard work.