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The Jacob Burns Law Library is home to one of North America’s largest and most notable research collections of legal materials. Of the more than 700,000 volumes in its holdings, more than 36,000 rare books, incunabula, and manuscripts, plus archival documents and objects, comprise its Special Collections. A focus on early Continental law, especially historical French legal materials, led to the establishment of substantial holdings in customary law, Roman and canon law, and historical international and foreign law. Among the Law Library’s noteworthy acquisitions are nearly 200 incunabula (books printed before 1501 using movable type). Its archival materials relate for the most part to American law, especially patent and government procurement law..

Our librarians share the treasures, curiosities, and unique materials of the collection via thematic exhibitions they conceive and mount. This Online Exhibits page presents their “born virtual” as well as online representations of their physical library displays so that patrons can “see” the books from afar and at their leisure.

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Realia From Special Collections


The Jacob Burns Law Library is one of only a few U.S. academic law libraries today with a realia collection.

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Jewels from the French Collection


The Law Library presented some of its treasures dating from the twelfth through nineteenth centuries during GWU's “French Week” to honor His Excellency Emmanuel Macron’s visit.

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The Egolf Patent Collection


Christopher Egolf, Law School class of ’75, passed away in 2016. Armed with his law degree and a background in chemical engineering (B.S. and M.S. from MIT)...

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Bound by the Law


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.

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Who Owned This Book? Celebrating Provenance


Lawyers might call it “chain of custody,” but book collectors and librarians call it “provenance.”

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Reference/Legal History & Rare Books Librarian
Karen Wahl
Director of Special Collections
Jennie C. Meade

Library Director
Scott Pagel