The Rare Book Collection supports legal education and research at The University of Texas by preserving and interpreting canonical and foundational legal works in both the civil and common law traditions, with a special emphasis practice, legal education, dictionaries and reference works, Texas legal history, and precursors of Texas law. The navigation to the left will guide you to more information on our collection strengths and current programming.
The collection is non-circulating and must be used in the Fourth Floor Reading Room. Rare books are generally available for use, providing that the guidelines for using the rare books collection are followed. While an appointment is not required, it is recommended. If you are coming from outside Austin, we especially urge you to contact us in advance, so that we can help you make the most of your research visit.
The Rare Book Collection supports legal education and research at The University of Texas by preserving and interpreting canonical and foundational legal works in both the civil and common law traditions, with a special emphasis on practice materials, legal education, dictionaries and reference works, Texas legal history, and precursors to Texas law. The Rare Book Collection has an outstanding collection of Texas legal literature dating from the period of Mexican Independence, through the Republic and into the early twentieth century. This collection is complemented by robust collections of material from all the precursors to Texas law: Roman, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American law. The collection currently numbers approximately 10,000 volumes.
Image from Jakob Spiegel. Lexicon juris civilis. Basel: apud Joannem Hervagium, 1554.
Two members of the Law School's original faculty, Professors O.M. Roberts and R.S. Gould, donated their private libraries to the law school in 1884. A number of these volumes are now in the collection.
Significant additions since then include:
The Carswell Company, 1921 (purchase of over 1,100 volumes, primarily English nominative reporters)
Judge Robert Lynn Batts, 1935 (donation of early English and Spanish law books), and the bequest of the Robert Lynn Batts Library by his daughter Margaret Tobin Batts 1993 (over 100 volumes of English, Spanish & American law, transferred from the Center for American History)
Harry Gammel, son of the famous Texas book dealer & publisher H.P.N. Gammel, 1946 (Spanish, Mexican, and European law)
The Texas Supreme Court Library, 1940-1970 (16th-19th century volumes of Roman, canon, French, and Spanish law; see Michael Widener, Hispanic & European Law Books in the Old Texas Supreme Court Library, a PDF file)
Chauncey D. Leake, Jr. (UT Law 1955) 1997- (early European law books and law-related fine press books; The Mildred A. O'Donohoe Collection of Williston Fish's Last Will. Online Exhibit: Williston Fish's Last Will)
If you have questions or suggestions about this page, please contact Rare Books.
Originally closely associated with the annual Rare Books Lecture, the Tarlton Law Library Legal History Series commenced in the year 2000. In the preface to the inaugural volume -- Guillermo Margadant, Illustrations of the Sachsenspiegel: A Medieval German Law Book -- former director Roy Mersky expressed the hope that the series would inspire "exploration of the rich sources of our legal heritage," and that the series itself demonstrate the "importance of libraries and archives to legal history."
Most Recent: No. 14 - Eric M. White, Evidence from the Fifteenth Century:
The Tarlton Law Library’s Earliest Printed Books,
Austin: Jamail Center for Legal Research, 2014. Press release
Series editor: Elizabeth Haluska-Rausch, PhD
Image from Eike von Repgow. Sachsenspiegel: die Wolfenbütteler Bilderhandschrift Cod. Guelf. 3.1 Aug. 2. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993. Facsimile in Special Collections.
The Manuscript Collection at Tarlton Law Library dates from the medieval through the early modern period. For modern materials please see Archives in the Department of Archives and Special Collections. The Manuscript Collection contains over 1000 pieces on paper and parchment. Two collection strengths are Texas practice documents from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and English legal documents dating from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century. Texas documents are as diverse as land certificates and hand written judicial opinions. English materials include, deeds, mortgages, leases, marriage settlements and testamentary material, as well as court records and other legal transactions. Some are decorated, many include wax seals. The collection also includes a number of legal codices dating from the early modern period, largely on paper.
Image from an illuminated leaf, Gregory IX. Liber Extra. Book 3, title 48. Paris?, not after 1240.
The Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts actively contributes to the life of the library and the law school in several ways. In addition to preserving and protecting early Texas law books and other legal treasures, the collection provides the basis for an exhibit program, rare books showings, and class visits. Many of the exhibits are complemented and preserved by online versions. These may be viewed in Digital Collections. The large manuscript collection has just been opened to public use and should provide an opportunity for substantive research on early modern England.
Groups are welcome, please contact the curator in advance.
The books are here ot be seen, please feel welcome to visit.