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Archives and Special Collections

The Archives of Biddle Law Library preserves, promotes, and provides access to the archives of The American Law Institute (ALI), and the National Bankruptcy Archives (NBA), as well as a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and Penn Law historic records.

Major Collections

The Biddle Law Library Manuscript Collections include the papers from prominent Penn Law alumni and faculty, Philadelphia based attorneys and law firms, as well as historically significant materials related to the United States legal history.

Search all of the online Manuscript Collection finding aids

Collection highlights include: 

George Wharton Pepper (1867-1961) was born in Philadelphia in 1867. He graduated from Penn Law School with an LL.B. in 1889 and was first in his class. As a student, Pepper helped found The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university’s student-run examination. In addition to studying law with Philadelphia scion George Washington Biddle, Pepper taught at Penn Law School from 1893 to 1910, when he left to attend to his expanding private practice. Pepper also served as United States Senator for Pennsylvania from 1922 to 1927.

William Draper Lewis was Dean of Penn Law at the turn of the 20th Century and founding director of the American Law Institute in 1923. This collection documents Lewis’ personal life and spans the years 1874-1949.

In 1949, President Harry S. Truman named David L. Bazelon, one of the youngest judges ever appointed, to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often described as the country’s most influential court next to the Supreme Court. The 212 linear feet of the Bazelon Papers, which cover the years 1941-1993, include cases, speeches, lectures, correspondence, meeting materials, and subject files documenting his years on the bench as well as other professional activities and affiliations.

Henry S. Drinker (1880-1965) was graduate of Haverford College, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1904, Drinker joined the prominent Philadelphia Law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath in 1904. An authority on legal ethics, Drinker’s book on the subject, “Legal Ethics,” was published in 1933 and went on to become a classic. This collection inclueds writings by Henry S. Drinker regarding criticism by Sir Francis Newbolt over some of his books, an essay called “Legal Plots,” and a writing called “The Lawyers of Anthony Trollope. Also featured is correspondence with Alfred A. Knopf and Sir Francis Newbolt.

Peter McCall (1809-1880) was Professor of practice, pleading, and evidence at law and in equity at Penn Law School. After resiging his post at the Law School, McCall became a University Trustee. McCall was a prominent member of Philadelphia public life, serving as mayor in 1844 and as Chancellor of the Law Academy of Philadelphia, the oldest law association in the United States, from 1873 until his death in 1880. This collection, 1855-1861, includes handwritten lectures from 1856 on Appearance, Bail, and Judgment of Default; Argument Lists of the Law Academy of Philadelphia sessions, 1855-1861; and an 1858 pamphlet entitled “Charter, Constitution & Bylaws of the Law Academy of Philadelphia.”​​

George W. Taylor was born in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1901. He attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 1921 and a Ph.D. in 1929. Taylor taught at Wharton for over 30 years. During that time, he became an influential expert in the field of industrial relations, includling arbitration, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution. Taylor first received major acclaim when he mediated an end to the Apex Hosiery Strike in Philadelphia in 1932. This collection includes Taylor’s papers related to his mediation work on the Apex Hosiery Strike.

John Honnold was born in 1915. He graduated from Harvard University Law School in 1936 and became Chief of the Court Review Branch of the Office of Price Administration during World War II. Honnold served as a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1946 to 1969, when he became Chief of Legal Staff to the Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). He resumed teaching at the Penn Law School in 1974 while working on the UNCITRAL draft that was ratified at the Vienna Convention. The collection, circa 1983-1993, includes copies of letters Honnold sent and received as the co-chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Vienna Conference and Chief of Staff of UNCITRAL. The collection also contains a reference file that spans from 1986 to 1993.

Leo Levin began his career at Penn Law as an Assistant Professor of Law in 1949, becoming a full professor in 1953, and went to the Emeritus Professor status in 1989. Levin was the director of the Federal Judicial Center from 1977 to 1987. Levin served on the Planning Committee of the Claims Commission charged with making recommendations concerning the proper disposition of hundreds of millions of dollars being paid, both as restitution and reparations, to survivors of the Holocaust.

The rare books collection spans the late 15th-mid 19th centuries and includes approximately 10,000 titles. The bulk of the collection consists of English reports, statutes, and treatises, but it also includes early French law, 16th and 17th century treatises on Roman and Canon law, American colonial and early state materials. Almost all of the rare books have been cataloged, and the records appear in the library’s online catalog, LOLA.

The Raymond F. Trent Collection consists of books, periodicals, articles, and audio tapes concerning the history of education and practice of black lawyers in the United States. The collection is located in the Bazelon Study Alcove. Records for all of the titles appear in LOLA.

Digitized Legal History Material

The following materials are a selection of digitized legal publications, eulogies, lectures, and writings mostly related to early American legal history and largely from the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s. 

  • Binney, Horace, An Eulogium upon the Hon. William Tilghman, Late Chief Justice of Pennsylvania (1827) (pdf)
  • Binney, Horace, An Eulogy on the Life and Character of John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1835) (pdf)
  • Gibson, John Bannister, Opinion, DeChastelleux versus Fairchild (pdf)
  • Gibson, John Bannister, Opinion, Hileman et al. versus Bouslaugh (pdf)
  • Great American Lawyers(ed. William Draper Lewis)
    • Dickinson, Samuel, “George Sharswood, 1810-1833,” vol. 7 (1909), 151-221 (pdf)
    • Kingelsmith, Margaret Center, “James Wilson, 1742-1798,” vol. 1 (1907), 151- 221 (pdf)
    • Matlack, Samuel Dreher, “John Bannister Gibson,” vol. 3 (1909), 351-404 (pdf)
    • Schofield, Joseph, “Joseph Story,” vol. 3 (1907), 123-185 (pdf)
    • Scott, James Brown, “Alexander Hamilton,” vol. 1 (1907), 357-432 (pdf)
    • Stern, Horace, “Joseph P. Bradley,” vol. 7 (1909) (pdf)
  • Great Jurists of the World, 1914
    • “Carl Friedrich Von Savigny,” (pdf)
    • “Emeric de Vatell,” 1914 (pdf)
    • “Hugo Grotius,” 1914 (pdf)
  • Grotius, Hugo, The freedom of the seas : or, The right which belongs to the Dutch to take part in the East Indian trade : a dissertation, 1916 (pdf)
  • “James Kent,” Southern Law Review, Volume 1 (1872), 381-391 (pdf)
  • Miscellaneous Writings of the Late Honorable Joseph P. Bradley and a Review of his “Judicial Record” by William Draper Lewis and an account of his “Dissenting Opinions,” by the late A. Q. Keasbey(ed. Charles Bradley), 1901:
    • Preface, Biography and Analysis of His Judicial Opinions (pdf)
    • Legal Tender Cases in 1870 and Essays, Letters and Historical Notes (pdf)
    • Political Expressions (pdf)
    • Electoral Commission, 1877 (pdf)
    • Lecture on Law (pdf)
    • Additional Essays (pdf)
  • Paris, Jean Baptiste Coignard, Les Lois civiles dans leur ordre naturel (The Civil Law in its Natural State), 1689 (pdf excerpt)
  • “Tribonian,” Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition, 1910 (excerpt)
  • Von Savigny, Friedrich Carl, The History of the Roman Law During the Middle Ages: translated from the original German by E. Cathcart, 1829 (pdf excerpt)
  • Sharswood, George, Professional Ethics: Compend of Lectures (1854) (pdf)