Landmarks of Law Reporting 12 – The first American law reports

Ephraim Kirby (1757-1804), Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Superior Court of The State Of Connecticut, from the Year 1785, to May 1788 (Litchfield, Conn., 1789).

Although American courts were producing a small number of written opinions after the Revolutionary War, those opinions failed to be collected or published in any systematic manner. Kirby’s Reports, a collection of Connecticut Superior Court cases published in 1789, was the first volume of law reports published in America. Ephraim Kirby was educated at Yale University and practiced law in Litchfield, Connecticut before being appointed the first Superior Court Judge of the Mississippi Territory by President Jefferson.

This volume is from the library of Simeon E. Baldwin, the professor credited with saving the Yale Law School in the late 19th century. It previously belonged to his father, Roger Sherman Baldwin, one of the attorneys for the Amistad captives.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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