Garner to give talk at Yale Law School about his Book Collection

December 8th, 2013

The Legal History Blog reports:

Bryan A. Garner, the world’s leading legal lexicographer, will give a talk on Monday, December 9, about the exhibit of association copies from his private book collection, which is currently on display in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Garner, Editor in Chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, has amassed a private collection of 36,000 books. He is particularly drawn to “association copies,” books once owned or inscribed by their authors or other significant individuals. The inscriptions, says Garner, are an “ineffable connection” with those who once signed or owned the book.

Garner’s talk is scheduled for 1pm on December 9 in Room 128 of the Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street in New Haven. A limited number of exhibit catalogues will be available for those who attend the talk.

The collection at YLS is impressive:

The exhibit, Built by Association: Books Once Owned by Notable Judges and Lawyers, includes books inscribed by John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clarence Darrow, the most famous trial lawyer in American history. Other notable figures include Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Benjamin Cardozo, and Lindley Murray, a lawyer best known as “the father of English grammar.” Three of the authors taught at Yale Law School: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Judge Jerome Frank, and the iconoclastic Professor Fred Rodell.

I saw a few of these works at the LawProse office in Dallas. The coolest item (that I saw, at least) was a book that was originally owned by John Jay–with his signature on the first page! Below, it says “First Chief Justice US Supreme Court.”


Here is Jay’s signature on The Treaty of Paris, along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.


Garner then showed me a book authored by legal great Jerome Frank. He told me that he had purchased it used for $25. I opened it up, and there was an inscription. “To Learned Hand. From Jerome Frank.” !!! Garner had purchased, inadvertently, a book from Jerome Frank to Learned Hand. !!!

I then joked to Garner that he needed a book from Cardozo to round out the New York great jurists. Garner reached to the next book on the stack, and what do you know, it was signed by Benjamin Cardozo. There were many more that I did not see.