The earliest origins of the State Library’s collections date back over 200 years to 1811 when a formal exchange program of law books with other U.S. States, Territories, and Native American Nations was established by the Massachusetts General Court. These legal collections expanded to a point where the State Library was formally established to house them in 1826. Over the past two centuries, the collections eventually grew to number almost 24,000 volumes and form a vast and vital part of the library’s 19th and 20th century holdings, making it one of the largest collection of state publications in existence.
While some might call these “dusty old law books” in the era of Westlaw and Lexis legal research, the volumes collectively tell the story of our nation’s legal foundations as a democracy, and the growth of the individual states to create the present United States of America. The State Library’s legal collections include such varied items as the Laws of California written in their original Spanish, the laws of Native Indian tribes and nations (i.e. Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Osage), some even in the original native language, and the laws of various territories that eventually became the familiar U.S. States we recognize today (i.e. Dakota, Illinois, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Hawaii).