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Monday, August 15, 2016

Our Colonial Indian Law Collection (Part II)

Code of Unrepealed Circular Orders (Calcutta, 1872)
Following up on our earlier post, we have identified additional rare titles in our colonial Indian law collection. The rarity of the titles was recorded by head cataloger Claire Stuckey, who searched OCLC holdings in the course of cataloging the collection. The project to identify works of particular importance was greatly aided by bibliographies that Professor Mitra Sharafi gathered on her website for the study of South Asian legal history, which are based in part on our collection. Sharafi's colonial law library and list of printed primary sources guided our own project. Her terrific research guide to colonial South Asian case law also directed our attention to our collection of case reports. 

In her work, Claire was able to add further titles to Sharafi's lists of printed primary sources. In many cases, few other US or foreign libraries have recorded copies of the titles - most typically Harvard or Yale and the British Library - and several are uniquely held at UMN. This is a link to the additional bibliography.    

Some of our copies also have marginal notation. One copy of an interesting digest is significantly interleaved with manuscript notes on additional cases. Ownership marks in many of the works may be interesting to provenance researchers as well.  

The genesis of our colonial Indian law collection, as unusually rare in North America and beyond, does not seem to stem from any one large acquisition, and instead formed part of the wider vision of Arthur Pulling. The Law School's first law librarian, Pulling succeeded in building the Law Library into one of the best legal research libraries in the US, in the short period between 1912 and 1942. Judging by accession records, the Indian law collection was developed as a matter of course, along with other titles of foreign and international law ranging across the world. At the same time, however, Pulling and his successor, Edward Bade, were particularly interested to acquire Indian law, and may have been advised by their main suppliers, Sweet & Maxwell in London and Cambray in Calcutta (Kolkata), both of which operate today.

To give a quick sense of the cost of items, 17 volumes of the The Sind Law Reporter (Karachi, 1926) were acquired from Sweet & Maxwell in 1935 for $175.70, just before another 12 volumes for $83.36. In the same year, the Library paid $31.44 for 5 volumes of The Indian JuristRemarkably, that same year, the first Magna Carta printed in England by a woman, Elizabeth Pickering, in 1541, was acquired for $36.94. Early printed Magna Cartas have certainly increased more in value over time, and there are various ways to measure what those prices mean today. But the Indian titles were often more costly than other foreign law, and did come in more frequently, particularly in the 1930s and 40s. It is a testament to the foresight of Pulling and Bade that they assembled a collection not only valuable and unique, but of significant research value today. 

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Our Colonial Indian Law Collection

[Zillah Decisions, Lower Provinces (Bengal)]
The Riesenfeld Center holds a rich and unique collection of colonial Indian law, published under the rule of British India between the 18th and 20th centuries. It is one of the very strongest in North America, comprising statutes, law reports, digests, treatises, journals and other important works. Taken together, the collection sheds significant light on the legal administration of India under the British Empire, and can help to address important questions of legal pluralism, innovation and adaptation. The breadth of criminal and civil materials are likewise excellent resources for the study of Indian social history across many regions, over an extended and very formative period.

Recently we completed a project to identify the rarest titles in the collection, and to move much of the collection to our temperature-controlled stacks or basement storage. This comes in addition to head cataloger Claire Stuckey's terrific project to catalog the collection, and to correct numerous records: over 250 new titles in the collection have now been searched and cataloged. During the process, Claire uncovered the rarity of the titles that have been relocated.

We have been able to identify more than 180 titles in the collection that are held in five or fewer foreign and domestic libraries, according to OCLC. Although OCLC records depend on reporting libraries and are not a full representation of existing copies, they give a strong sense of availability. Below are several recorded as held in five or fewer libraries:  

The Acts Passed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal in Council (Calcutta, 1865)
Baroda Law Reports (Vaḍodarā, 1891) [unique title]
Collection of the Decisions of the High Court and the Privy Council on the Hindu Law of Marriage and the Effect of Apostacy After Marriage Up to March 1891 (Madras, 1891)
Collection of the Decisions of the High Courts and the Privy Council on the Law of Succession, Maintenance, &c.: Applicable to Dancing Girls and Their Issues (Madras, 1892)
A selection of Indian leading cases: containing reports of cases decided by the Superior Courts in India (Calcutta, 1893)
The Criminal Cases: A Monthly Journal Containing Full Reports of All Reportable Criminal Judgments of All Superior Courts of India and Burma and of the Privy Council (Nagpur, 1929)

Material from the colonial period, including acts and high court decisions, can be found online, but lots of interesting colonial law has not been digitized. For more on researching Indian law, see the Library of Congress's page, and for historical research and sources, see Professor Mitra Sharafi's website

Stay tuned for a post on recently identified titles and the acquisition of items in the 1930s and 40s.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections