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Law Rare Books Collection

The Law Rare Books Collection is an important public collection of rare and early legal texts. The collection is of research significance not only to lawyers, but also to researchers of legal, social and cultural history. It has particularly strong holdings of early printed law texts; law reports, seventeenth-century political pamphlets, classic legal texts and material relating to Australian Federation and the early years of the Commonwealth. Its nineteenth-century holdings are a good representative example of a colonial lawyer’s library and are significant for what they can tell us about the practice of law in early Victoria.

The collection’s links to the beginnings of the University of Melbourne – via the collections of individuals such as William Edward Hearn and Sir Redmond Barry – make it of particular significance to Melbourne Law School and the University community more broadly. There are also volumes from the personal collections of prominent Melbourne Law School alumni, including Sir Owen Dixon, Sir John Minogue, and Sir Isaac Isaacs.

Highlights of the collection include:


  • Australian Federation, series of five large volumes of material relating to Australian Federation and the early years of the Commonwealth, compiled by J.G. (John Garibaldi) Roberts from 1889.

  • Coke's commentary on the Magna Carta and a selection of other medieval statutes.

  • Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone, several early editions (1768, 1771, 1773 and 1775). [Volumes available from multiple editions in print and/or digital format]




  • Plutology (one of the extremely rare Melbourne imprints and inscribed 'John  MacFarland Esq...with the Author's Kind Regards". by Hearn

  • Statutes at Large, Barry's volumes containing his bookplate, and some have his signature. The first volume also contains hand-written notes.

  • the story of Ikey Solomons, the real-life model for Fagin in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.



  • the trials of Charles I, Andrew Johnson and various titles about the Tichborne Claimant, which are available through the Library catalogue.

Items from the Rare Book Collection cannot be borrowed but are available to view for research purposes. Copying is available in some circumstances. Please see staff at the loans desk on Level 3 for assistance or call ph 8344 8913 Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5:00pm, to make arrangements to use the Rare Book Collection.

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