Supreme Court Bobbleheads on exhibit

March 18, 2010

The Green Bag, “An Entertaining Journal of Law,” has selected the Lillian Goldman Law Library to be the official archive of its Supreme Court Bobbleheads. To mark this momentous event, the Rare Book Collection has put a selection of Supreme Court Bobbleheads on display, on Level L2 of the Law Library, in the wall case at the entrance to the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room.

Adam Liptak, the New York Times reporter who covers the U.S. Supreme Court, published an excellent article on the exhibit, “Relax, Legal Scholars: Bobbleheads Are Safe at Yale”, in the March 17, 2010 issue of the New York Times.

The Green Bag began issuing its Supreme Court Bobbleheads in 2003 with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Subsequently, the bobbleheads have come out roughly in order of seniority, with Justice David H. Souter being the most recent of the sitting Justices (issued shortly before his retirement from the Court).

The bobbleheads have a sophisticated iconography, as Ross E. Davies, editor-in-chief of The Green Bag, explained in the New York Times article: “The bobbleheads are, not to overstate it, a little bit more than toys. They’re portrayals of the work and character of these judges.” See “The Annotated Bobblehead: Justice John Paul Stevens,” at right, for an example.

So far, The Green Bag has issued bobbleheads of seven modern Justices (in order of appearance they are William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Harry A. Blackmun, and David H. Souter) and two historic Justices (Louis D. Brandeis and Benjamin Curtis, author of a famous dissent to the Dred Scott decision). Forthcoming are small bobbleheads of the first Supreme Court Justices (John Jay, William Cushing, and John Rutledge).

Yale’s Supreme Court Bobblehead Collection also includes dozens of “draft” bobbleheads, reflecting earlier stages in their design.

The Green Bag bobbleheads are not the first bobbleheads in the Rare Book Collection. That honor goes to the bobblehead of Yale law professor and Dean Emeritus Harold Hongju Koh, which was issued in 2006 as a fundraiser for the Yale Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society.

Thanks to Ross Davies and The Green Bag for making this acquisition possible, and to Fred Shapiro, our Associate Librarian for Collections & Access, who had the inspired idea of contacting The Green Bag.

The Supreme Court Bobblehead exhibit will be on display through the summer.


Rare Book Librarian

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