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Monday, June 5, 2017

The Hermann Kantorowicz Collection at the UMN Law Library

Hermann Kantorowicz (1877-1940)
The University of Minnesota Law Library and Riesenfeld Rare Books Center are pleased to announce the creation of the Hermann Kantorowicz Collection, a significant collection of books and articles formerly owned by Hermann Kantorowicz (1877-1940), one of the twentieth century’s most eminent legal scholars. Comprising over 1,850 titles from the sixteenth through twentieth centuries, the Kantorowicz Collection includes notable early modern works, and rare and important scholarship on medieval law, jurisprudence, criminal law and German constitutional law, among other fields. Previously dispersed throughout the Law Library’s collections, Kantorowicz’s library has recently been identified and organized into a discrete collection in the Riesenfeld Center. 

A jurist of the highest stature, Hermann Kantorowicz reflected on some of the most important legal and political questions of his time. Born in Poznan, Germany, in 1877, Kantorowicz studied law at the University of Berlin, where he was influenced by Franz von Liszt and Emil Seckel. A noted early work was a historical study of criminal law, which drew on his expertise in the medieval jus commune, a central area of research over his career. In 1906, under the pseudonym Gneaus Flavius, Kantorowicz published one of the fundamental works of jurisprudence in the 20th century, Der Kampf um die Rechtswissenschaft. As a critique of both natural law theory and excessive formalism in the application of law, the treatise articulated a far-reaching view, that a more ‘free’ judicial interpretation was required to fill unavoidable lacunae in the written law. The work was called the foundation of the Free Law movement in Germany by fellow legal giant Gustav Radbruch, and prefigured the development of legal realism, perhaps the most influential school of legal interpretation in the US in the first half of the last century. 

Kantorowicz was known as an outspoken law professor at Freiburg and then Kiel, where he was removed from his post in 1933 by the Nazi government. Neither his Jewish heritage nor his political views would have allowed him to remain safely, and in the same year Kantorowicz moved to England with his family. After a short period of teaching in the United States, he returned to teach at Cambridge and the London School of Economics; between 1934 and his death in 1940, Kantorowicz taught primarily legal history at Oxford and Cambridge. Over a productive career, he published numerous works in German and also some influential work in English. With his important contributions, particularly to the fields of jurisprudence, legal history and criminal law, Kantorowicz remains a towering legal figure of the twentieth century.  

The Kantorowicz Collection sheds particular light on the scholars and works with which Kantorowicz was engaged, as well as his own work, published during his career in Germany and in England. Highlights include Kantorowicz’s own annotated copy of Der Kampf um die Rechtswissenschaft (1906), his key contribution to jurisprudence; manuscript lecture notes from the mid-nineteenth century, inscribed to Kantorowicz by his friend Gustav Radbruch; Kantorowicz’s marked (underlined) copy of Grotius’s seminal De jure belli ac pacis (1651); and marked and unmarked copies of a broad range of important scholarship, with a focus on medieval Roman and canon law, the theory and practice of criminal law, and the philosophy of law. Other items stand on their own, including a first edition of Hegel’s Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1821), and a manuscript of student notes on Savigny’s lectures on the Pandects. Taken together, the Kantorowicz library is a valuable resource for study.

The Kantorowicz Collection is available for consultation in the Law Library’s Riesenfeld Center, and the titles in the collection can be viewed and downloaded here:


For further information or an appointment for research, please contact Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections (rgreenwo@umn.edu; 612-625-7323).

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

The Hermann Kantorowicz Collection – History

The new Hermann Kantorowicz Collection at the Riesenfeld Center has an interesting, though not entirely known, history. The titles that form the collection were purchased in 1941, originally from Hermann Kantorowicz’s widow, Hilda, after the eminent jurist passed away in England in 1940. At the time, the more contemporary titles were dispersed in the Law Library's general circulating collection, usually with a bookplate to identify their origin. The books judged rare and special, ranging from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, were separated and later became part of the Arthur C. Pulling Rare Books Collection in the Riesenfeld Center. Correspondence from 2002 between Hermann Kantorowicz’s son, Frank, and Katherine Hedin, my predecessor, alerted me to the extent of our Kantorowicz material, and we decided to reunite the collection for better preservation and access. 

The project to assemble the Kantorowicz library was carried out by our colleague and collections expert extraordinaire, Ingrid Miza, and a student worker, Amanda Aho. Some Kantorowicz titles were identified based on notes in our catalog records, but Ingrid often relied on the more recondite art of recognizing likely bindings, subject areas and titles among works in the general collection. She also carefully deciphered handwritten entries in the original accession books, which contain the itemized purchase records from 1941. Identified items were checked for their Kantorowicz bookplates, and their accession numbers were matched to the accession records. Many of the titles were not represented in our catalog—or, in some cases, in WorldCat—and our rare books cataloger, Sarah Yates, did a wonderful job to catalog these. The collection was then
transferred to our closed Riesenfeld Center stacks. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century titles now reside largely in one aisle, and sixteenth- through eighteenth-century books have been kept in their existing rare books collections.

The question of why the books came to the UMN Law Library does not have a clear answer, though some guesses can be made. The correspondence from Kantorowicz’s son indicates that Hilda Kantorowicz first offered the titles for sale to Harvard Law Library. What Harvard did not want, according to Mr. Kantorowicz, was sold on to the University of Minnesota Law Library. My colleague Karen Beck at Harvard Law Library very kindly passed on copies of their relevant accession records, confirming that Harvard did purchase titles from Kantorowicz’s library about the same time in 1941. Harvard only purchased about 200 items, probably because their library already had copies of the remaining material. The
University of Minnesota Law Library director at the time, Arthur Pulling, had come from Harvard in 1912 and was responsible for building the library into a nationally significant research collection. When he departed in 1942, he returned to Harvard to become the law library director. It seems likely that his connections account for Minnesota receiving second consideration for the books. The developing collections of foreign and international law, as well as rare books, benefitted richly from the acquisition.

In addition to the collections of largely printed Kantorowicz material at the University of Minnesota Law Library, and at Harvard Law Library, there is also a collection - including the manuscript of Der Kampf um die Rechtswissenschaft - housed in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge. The bulk of Kantorowicz’s papers can be found at the University of Freiburg in Germany, and an important center for research in law, legal history and theory that bears the jurist's name is the Hermann Kantorowicz Institute at the University of Kiel.

For more on Kantorowicz, his work and his career, see the excellent chapter by David Ibbetson, "Hermann Kantorowicz (1877-1940) and Walter Ullmann (1910-1983)," in Jurists Uprooted: German-Speaking Emigre Lawyers in Twentieth-century Britain, ed. J. Beaton and R. Zimmermann (Oxford, 2004), 269-98; and the online biographical tribute to his father by Tom Carter.   

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections