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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

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