The Rare Book collection of the Cornell Law Library serves to maintain the historical continuity of the study of law, and to provide the provenance on which the current literature is based. The Library has collected early and rare books throughout its history, and makes the collection available to researchers.
The collection consists of several thousand volumes, primarily English and continental European materials, including many 16th- and 17th-century works. It includes the Samuel Thorne Collection, 175 of the earliest and rarest books on law. Other books in the collection have been drawn from a number of sources, including the Nathaniel C. Moak library and the Edwin J. Marshall Collection of early works on equity.
The collection is strongest in the area of Anglo-American law. However, early and/or rare works on U.S. and European civil law are also well represented as evidenced by a number of important early works of French law, as well as early printed editions of Roman and feudal law. The collection of materials on British law is particularly rich in reports and abridgements from the Tudor-Stuart period, as well as editions of Coke's Institutes and Blackstone's Commentaries.
Early editions of works on practice and pleading, conveyance, as well as sources and treatises on Chancery, are also well represented. Of particular note are early editions of treatises such as Bracton, Fleta, Fortescue, and Littleton, as well as the abridgements of Fitzherbert and Brooke.