Berwick Readies Rare Book Collection for Legal and History Scholars

Associate Dean for Information Resources Philip C. Berwick has recently devoted his energies to surveying the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection with an eye toward identifying and publicizing some of its hidden treasures. During his 15-year tenure, Berwick, with the assistance of law library personnel, has been organizing and cataloguing the 1,800-plus volumes, making it ready and available for the benefit of legal historians at the law school and Washington University, as well as for scholars and researchers nationwide.

Berwick is proud of the law school’s Rare Book Collection and deems it pertinent for scholars researching a variety of topics and issues. The collection is especially strong in areas such as early English law and the founding of the United States. It also contains a number of sixteenth and seventeenth century Canon Law titles. More recently, the Law Library has acquired legal materials relating to the Dred Scott decision. 

Some of the Rare Book Collection’s many prized treasures include:

  • four incunabula—books printed before 1501;
  • five pre-1600 imprints of the Magna Carta;
  • a 1546 printing of the earliest English Book of Writs;
  • a rare circa 1514 first edition of the Book of Assizes, Liber Assisarum et Placitorum Corone, printed by John Rastell; and
  • several early editions of The Federalist. 

An attorney with a master’s in library science from the University of Michigan, Berwick learned his craft over the years while working at the University of Toledo College of Law, the Law Library of Congress, Georgetown University Law School, and George Mason University School of Law. He believes that the law school, Washington University, and legal and history scholars nationwide will benefit from this magnificent collection.