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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

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