Robert Freilich (Law ‘57) donates his outstanding English law collection

Sir Edward Coke
October 26, 2017

The largest gift of rare books in recent memory arrived this weekend with the 2017 Yale Law School Alumni Reunion. The Lillian Goldman Law Library was honored to receive the collection of early English law books assembled by Professor Robert H. Freilich. He made the gift to mark the 60th anniversary of his graduation from Yale Law School in 1957.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • Bracton’s De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (1569).
  • Glanville (1604).
  • Britton (1640).
  • Kitchin’s Jurisdictions (1657).
  • Littleton’s Tenures (1671).
  • Coke’s Institutes, First Part (1639), Second Part (1671), Third Part (1648), and Fourth Part (1648).
  • Coke’s Three Law Tracts (1764).
  • Coke’s Reports, Fourth Part (1604), and Quinta Pars (1607).
  • Fitzherbert’s Novel Natura Brevium (1635).
  • Blackstone’s Commentaries (1774).

Professor Freilich credits the inspiration to collect early English law books to the course he took on “Future Interests” taught by Professor Ashbel Green Gulliver in 1956. As Professor Gulliver wrote in Cases and Materials on the Law of Future Interests (1959):

“This is the oldest living graduate of our law. Unusual devotion to stare decisis and the theory of adoption of English common law have resulted in the retention in American jurisdictions of concepts formulated long ago on the other side of the Atlantic. … [I]t is impossible to understand modern law, whether changed or unchanged, without a fairly thorough comprehension of the English evolution down through the centuries.”

The opportunity to begin collecting early English law presented itself in London several years later, when Freilich was a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. He came across Frognal Rare Books, operated by the late Lady Edith Finer, and began buying the most significant early works on English law, especially land law.

As a Professor of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Professor Freilich taught the three branches of property (Estates and Future Interests; Transactions; and Land Use) from 1968 to 2004. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2005, he continues to teach separate courses in Future Interests and Land Use at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law as a Visiting Professor. His publications include Land Use: Cases and Materials (7th ed. 2017) and From Sprawl to Sustainability: Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Green Development, and Renewable Energy (2nd ed. 2010).

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is grateful for Professor Freilich’s splendid gift, and eager to place it at the service of the Yale Law School’s legal history curriculum.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Professor Robert Freilich (far right) talks to his classmates from the Yale Law School Class of 1957 about the collection of early English law books he donated to the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

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