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Books are indispensable to lawyers and judges, containing as they do the official record of the laws that define rights, liberties, and behavior, as well as the accumulated wisdom with which those laws have been interpreted. Law books were particularly important during the formative years of the American nation, from its founding until the Civil War, as the young federal government and each state developed its unique legal literature. This study focuses on the sources that shaped Louisiana law by examining collections that were developed during approximately the first fifty years after the Louisiana Purchase by six New Orleans attorneys, briefly compares their libraries with two major collections of renowned attorneys who resided outside Louisiana (Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Story), and discusses how the local lawyers would have obtained their books.


Published in Tulane European and Civil Law Forum24 (2009): 161-190. Expanded from an invited paper of the same title, presented at an International Colloquium Celebeating the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Civil Code 1808-2008, Tulane University, New Orleans, November 2008.