Skip to Main Content

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.

Australian Materials

The Law Rare Book Collection includes a range of material relating to nineteenth-century Australian legal history. This includes legislation, law reports, legal texts and periodicals.


Much early Australian legislation is kept on the open shelves on Level 4 of the Law Library. This includes the annual acts for Victoria from 1854 and Commonwealth acts from 1901.

Legislation held in the Law Rare Book Collection includes:

  • The Public General Statutes of the Commonwealth of Australia (of Public Utility), compiled by James C. Anderson, Melbourne, C.F. Maxwell, 1903-1906, v.1 (1901-1902)-v.2 (1903-1905)
    Call number: Law RB 349.94 AUST
  • The Statutes of the Commonwealth of Australia (of Practical Utility), compiled by H.B. Bignold, Melbourne, C.F. Maxwell, 1912-, v.3 (1906-1911)-v.4 (1912-1913)
    Call number: Law RB 349.94 AUST
  • The Acts and Ordinances of Victoria (Private): 15 Victoria 1851-2 to 19 Victoria 1855-6, Melbourne, Govt. Printing Office, 1852-1856
    Call number: Law RB 345.945 VICT
  • Victoria: Constitutional Acts 1851, Melbourne, Govt. Printer, 1851
    Call number: Law RB f 342.94024 VICT
  • Public Statutes of New South Wales, from 28 November 1879 to 27 March 1885: 43 Vic. no. 12 - 48 Vic. no. 28, Sydney, T. Richards, Govt. Printer, 1886
    Call number: Law RB NSW ACTS 1879-1885
  • The Acts of the Lieutenant-Governor and Council of Van Diemen’s Land, Hobart Town, Govt. Printer
    Call number: Law RB TAS ACTS

  • Commentary on legislation

    • Francis Quinlan, The Practice of the County Courts, being the County Court Statute, 1869, and the County Court Rules, 1881, Melbourne, Charles F. Maxwell, 1881
      Call number: Law RB 347.91 QUI
    • Frank Gavine Duffy and Alfred MacHugh, The Insolvency Act 1890 with Notes, Rules, and Index, Melbourne, Maxwell, 1893
      Call number: Law RB 347.73327 D858
    • W. E. Hearn, The General Code 1885: Being a Bill to Declare Consolidate and Amend the Substantive General Law, Melbourne, John Ferres, Govt. Printer, [1885
      Call number: Law RB f 345.945B

    Legal treatises

    Many items in the Law Rare Book Collection were part of the Law Faculty’s original teaching library. As a result, the collection includes a large number of nineteenth-century legal treatises and texts. These include:

    • P. D. Phillips, A Treatise on the Insolvency Law in Force in the Colony of Victoria: With an Historical Review of English Bankruptcy Legislation, Melbourne, J. C. Stephens, Printer, 1899
      Call number: Law RB 347.7 Phi
    • L. Voumard, The Law Relating to the Sale of Land in Victoria, Melbourne, Law Book Co. of Australasia, 1939
      Call number: Law RB 346.436 V972


    Periodicals in the Law Rare Book Collection include:

    • The Legal Year-Book of Australasia
    • The Summons: A Magazine of Legal and General Literature (Law Clerks? Society, Melbourne)
      Vol. 1, no. 1 (Sept. 1891)]-v. 12, no. 3 (May 1903

    Judges, lawyers and legal personalities

    • Philip A.Jacobs, Judges of Yesterday, Melbourne, Robertson & Mullens, 1924
      Call number: Law RB 347.092 Jac
    • Edward E. Morris, A Memoir of George Higinbotham: An Australian Politician and Chief Justice of Victoria, London, Macmillan, 1895
      Call number: Law RB 994.503092 HIGI/MORR
    • Redmond Barry, An Address Delivered by His Honor Sir Redmond Barry, One of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Before the University Forensic Society: and an address, also delivered by him, on the opening of the Circuit Court at Portland, Melbourne, University Forensic Society, [1860?]
      Call number: Law RB 347.04 Bar
    • The Law List: Comprising the Judges and Officers of the Supreme Court, Counsel, Attorneys, Conveyancers, Notaries, &c. in Victoria, with the Melbourne Agents to the Country Attorneys, Melbourne, Sands & McDougall, 1863-
      Call number: Law RB 347.058 L.L.A.
    • The Law List of Australasia: Comprising the Judges and Officers of the Different Courts of Justice, Counsel, Attorneys, Notaries, etc., and Rules of the Supreme Courts, in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, New Zealand, Tasmania, Western Australia, Melbourne, C.F. Maxwell, <1878>-1892.
      Call number: Law RB 347.058 L.L.A.
    • Kevin Anderson, Fossil in the Sandstone: The Recollecting Judge, Melbourne, Spectrum, 1986
      Call number: Law RB 347.945014092 ANDE
    • Arthur Dean, The Late Honourable Sir Norman O’Bryan: Formerly Senior Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, [Melbourne?, s.n., 1968?
      Call number: Law RB 347.9403534 OBRY/ DEAN


    • Report from the Select Committee upon the Supreme Court Buildings: together with the proceedings of the Committee and minutes of evidence, Melbourne, Government Printer, 1878
      Call number: Law RB 725.15099451 VICT
    • James M’Kean, The New Law and Practice of the County Courts, Comprising the County Court Statute, 1869, with the Rules of Practice, Forms of Procedure, Table of Fees of Court, and Scales of Costs Thereunder, Melbourne, Samuel Mullen, 1869
      Call number: Law RB 347.99 Mac
    • The Practice of the County Courts, Being the County Court Statute, 1869, and the County Court Rules, 1881, Melbourne, Charles F. Maxwell, 1881
      Call number: Law RB 347.91 QUI
    • Murray Yann, Court on Film, [East Ivanhoe, Vic.], White Gloves Press, 2004
      Call number: Law RB f 779.9449451 YANN


    Federation-related items in the Law Rare Book Collection include:

    • Sir Richard Baker, A Manual of Reference to Authorities for the Use of the Members of the National Australasian Convention, which will assemble at Sydney on March 2, 1891, for the purpose of drafting a constitution for the Dominion of Australia, Adelaide [S. Aust.], W.K. Thomas & Co., 1891
      Call number: Law RB 342.9402 BAK
    • Official Record of the Proceedings and Debates of the Australasian Federation Conference, 1890, held in the Parliament House, Melbourne, Melbourne, Govt. Printer, 1890
      Call number: Law RB 342.94 A938

Legal History Databases

Useful Links

Referencing and citing

  Referencing & Citing

The Australian Guide to Legal Citation, 4th Edition is the referencing style for subjects in the Melbourne Law School. 

For assistance with referencing in AGLC and Zotero reference management software, please contact

Contact Us

Guide Author 

This Research Guide is created and maintained by the Law Library, Melbourne Law School.

Please contact us at with corrections, suggestions or comments about the Guide.