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The Joseph Story Digital Suite

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) was uniquely important to American jurisprudence and to the Harvard Law School, where he taught as Dane Professor from 1829 until his death. With the Court (established in 1789) and the Law School (founded in 1817) still in their early years, Story was in the right place and time to exert a lasting influence on both institutions. He wrote such landmark opinions as Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee and United States v. The Amistad, authored numerous treatises that addressed the needs of the country’s emerging national jurisprudence, and mentored hundreds of Harvard Law School students for their roles as heads of the bench and bar. Fueling Story’s productivity were great ambition, careful scholarship, and a punishing schedule of travel and hard work.

The three-volume Digest of Various Court Decisions, written in Story’s own hand, was his attempt to summarize and understand the law, and prefigured his approach to legal analysis in his series of Commentaries decades later. Story’s Papers, 1796-1845 include correspondence with leading legal and social figures of Massachusetts and beyond, as well as a manuscript draft of his Commentaries on the Law of Promissory Notes. The Story-Pitman correspondence (from the John Pitman collection), spanning 1817 to 1845, sheds light on the close professional and personal association of Justice Story and judge Pitman of Rhode Island, who served together on the First Judicial Circuit. Complementing these components are images of Story from the Harvard Law Library’s Art and Visual Materials Collection, the Harvard Fine Arts Library's Special Collections, and the Harvard Art Museum’s Portait/Clock Collections.

We anticipate that the Joseph Story Digital Suite, released on August 29, 2012, will grow, and hope that it eventually includes, or links to, original Story material from other institutions. We also hope to create a user community which will contribute to the suite through user-generated tags, personal “collections,” and transcriptions.

Karen Beck and Margaret Peachy, Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

Sculpture of Joseph Story, William Wetmore Story 1855
This sculpture now stands in the entrance to the Harvard Law School Library, Langdell Hall