Skip to Main Content
Online Exhibitis Home Special Collections Home Library Website GW Law School Official Website

Bound by Law: Home

Bound By Law

Scholar Image



While legal researchers are most interested in the contents of a book, many scholars and historians are interested in the book as a physical object.  They are concerned with variations in printings, the provenance of a book (who owned it), who printed and sold it, and the binding of the volume.  Indeed, the earliest books are true works of art with beautiful, hand-painted illustrations, interesting fonts, and ornate bindings.


Many of the earliest printed books, especially the large, folio volumes, were bound in wooden boards and then bound in stamped leather.  Some bindings were even intended to indicate the ownership of the volume.  As the bindings deteriorated (and the paper, much better than any paper produced today, continued to be in great condition), they were seen as valuable and often were rebound in even more ornate leather.


Our display of volumes from the collection from the Jacob Burns Law Library illustrates many of these types of bindings.  They range from very ornate “blind-stamped” volumes to bindings meant to show ownership to more contemporary bindings from masters of the craft.


Curated by Karen Wahl, Reference/Legal History & Rare Books Librarian, | Spring 2017