The Law Library is home to countless historic books and artifacts that, until recently, have remained locked away in boxes, inaccessible to the general public. Thanks to a generous donation from the Cincinnati Law Library Association, that is all about to change.
A museum-quality display case has been added to the public foyer leading into the new subscriber lounge and conference center that will house a rotating collection of the Law Library’s most interesting and historically valuable pieces.
The first collection showcases three pieces central to the history of the Law Library: the Bible Cincinnati Superior Court Judges took their oath of office upon, known as the Taft Bible, a copy of the Laws of Pennsylvania that was one of three books to survive the fire in the Riots of 1884 and the book plate for the Rufus King collection of books.
Stop by the Law Library to view these items and keep an eye out for more displays coming!
A little information about the three items:
The Superior Court of Cincinnati was established by the Ohio Constitution of 1851. Having a comparable jurisdiction with the Court of Common Pleas, the Superior Court was comprised of three judges who tried cases individually during special terms. Those decisions could then be reviewed by the judges in banc during general term. The court was abolished and the last session was held on November 30, 1925.
Traditionally the judges of the Superior Court were all sworn on the same Bible, which was destroyed in the Courthouse Riots of 1884. This Bible was presented to the Court by Judge Harmon upon his resignation on March 7th, 1887, having first used it to swear in his successor, William Howard Taft. The names of all judges sworn on this Bible have been faithfully recorded on the title pages. We have transcribed the entire inscription, which is also on display.
In March of 1884, ten thousand citizens of Cincinnati, wearied by a legal system bogged down with corruption and back-room bribery, stormed the “Bastille of the West”, the Hamilton County Courthouse, and burned it to the ground. The Cincinnati Law Library, which was housed in the Courthouse and considered the largest and finest collection of legal knowledge in the United States at the time, was devoured by the flames.
17,000 books perished in the fire.
Only three survived.
This is one of the three.
When the Law Library burned in the Courthouse Riots of 1884, the entire collection was destroyed. A riot clause in the library’s insurance policy meant there was no money to rebuild. A local attorney, Rufus King, donated the entirety of his print collection, plus $20,000, to help the library rebuild. The Law Library established the Rufus King Fund, which still helps fund the library to this day. These book plates were created to stamp the items purchased with these funds, which can still be found in the library today.