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Venteicher Rare Book Room

1930 Creighton Law Library Article

Omaha World Herald, January 19,1930

This article describes the Law Library as it existed in 1930. It is an interesting overview of the library collection as well as the physical layout and operation of the library. Notably, the article includes interesting details about the rare book collections and the Babylonian cuneiform tablets.Omaha World Herald 1930-01-19

YOU will find 30 thousand books in the library of the Creighton university school of law, unquestionably one of "THE" libraries of the country.

There are law libraries in the United States with more volumes, but here for the purposes required is being assembled an extraordinary collection, which in a few years will be complete. The Creighton law library today has 250 volumes for each student enrolled in the school, a ratio which few law school libraries exceed.

The school of law, a handsome brick building, faces the great stadium of the college and is located at Twenty-sixth and California streets, one block west of the Administration building, with entrance on the campus. Louis J. Te Poel, M. A., LL. B., is dean of the school of law. Hugh F. Gillespie, M. A., LL. M., is librarian. Both are professors of law, and officers of instruction.

The school of law was opened in 1904 in temporary quarters provided by the college of medicine and removed the following year to the Edward Creighton institute, now the Arthur building. In September, 1921, classes were opened in the new building now occupied. The school is a member of the Association of American Law Schools and is on the approved list of the American Bar Association. The teaching in the school is mostly in the hands of full-time professors, of which Prof. Gillespie is one.

At the west end of the school of law is the library, including digests, encyclopedias, and every American case since 1880, including federal, supreme and state court records. The reading room is fitted with many comfortable chairs and tables, with an entrance to the circulating department where Miss Marcella Houlton, assistant to Prof. Gillespie, is ready to serve and issue such books as are required.

BOOKS may be taken home by the students for perusal and study, while the service and use of the library is open to members of the legal profession and others interested in looking up material, free of charge.

Off this central room where Miss Houlton has her desk, and which is bordered by shelf on shelf of weighty volumes full of meat, is Prof. Gillespie's private office, with a general reception room between his office and the one where Dean Te Poel holds forth.

In the southwest corner of the building extending from basement to gallery is the stack room. Here is that portion of the library of which Prof. Gillespie and others of the school are extremely proud. For there is no stack room in the country embodying equipment better suited to the protection and preservation of its treasure than this stack room of the Creighton university school of law.

Tier above tier, five tiers in all, with room for the addition of two more above, the stack room rises with its shelves of books. Steel vaults and doors embedded in concrete, the kind that banks use in safeguarding their gold and securities, are used for the keeping of books, worth so much more than their weight in gold, that a comparison would be futile. Quarters even extend underground rivaling the safety deposit vaults of banks and government mints.

It's the last word in protection. And throughout the whole of this stack room there is not so much as a single stick of wood. For all this steel, thick doors and such was not placed to safeguard against thieves, but fire and water.

While there is nothing to burn in the stack room, unless one would set fire to the leaves of the books, water, should it by any chance be turned into this fireproof building, would wreak terrific damage.

So those of the school of law library are taking no chances, the congressional library at Washington may be larger, but its physical equipment is no better.

There are just two entrances to the stack room, one off the general library room, and one below at the foot of the stacks. Stairs lead from stack to stack, but there is also an automatic elevator in one corner, which will probably be used a great deal more when the two additional stacks are added.

Steel walls, window sills, frames, inclosed metal elevator shaft, iron stairway and steel bookshelves are just a part of it. Great fireproof and shatterproof glass windows admit light from the side, while the entire roof of the stack room is of the same material. The floors of each tier are of translucent glass, one inch thick.

SUCH is the place in which the treasure is kept, a room that Prof. Gillespie took his stand for in the beginning, and in its completion is all that professor, college or student could desire.

When Prof. Gillespie took his position as librarian in June, 1917, there were about three thousand volumes in the library. Since then a great many books have been donated by individuals and more purchased. Cornelius McGreevey gave several hundred volumes and Ralph W. West contributed a box of volumes from the library of his father, the late Joel W. West. What is the value of the Creighton university school of law library? Prof. Gillespie says there is really no way of placing the value in actual dollars and cents. But "many thousands" will cover it, you can be sure. Take for instance the box of books donated by Mr. West. It was thought by some that they were of little value. But it took Prof. Gillespie and others but a short time to learn that many of the books are invaluable.

Like the wild pigeon once so common and current, law books of antiquity fade away like other things until there are but a few left. Sometimes a book may be found the last of its kind in existence. This library of law has many books of great value because of their rarity.

In addition the Creighton university school of law library is being added to by purchased volumes at the rate of an expenditure totalling five thousand dollars per year. In 1917-1918 when the people of England were selling books and other things for a song, a New York company bought thousands of dollars' worth of rare and odd English law tomes, which you will find today on the shelves of the stack room at Creighton.

IN THIS library you will find many old English, and other reports, original year books and others containing the records of cases back to 1300. There are at least four hundred volumes several hundred years old.

If Prof. Gillespie is in the mood, he will go and fetch a small pasteboard box, and pass it to you. If you are not wearing your seeing glasses at the time*. Upon opening the box you will behold a nice cluster of what appears to be large molasses candy squares. These squares were made in ancient Babylon, say about the year 2350, B. C. They are the work of makers of the law, made of the finest clay.

And now while the Creighton Glee club plays upon the lute and croons an ancient Babylonian theme song, we will roll back the centuries, and let you in on the meaning of these tablets inscribed and stamped, when Omaha was but a prairie and where the Creighton law school stands today, a great wind blew.

This taffy colored tablet was found at Drehem near Nippur, where there was a receiving station for the offerings for the temple of Bel at Nippur.

It is a temple receipt for four sheep, one kid, one lamb and one ox. The date is early in the Ur dynasty of kings who ruled Babylonia from 2400 to 2100 B. C. The years were then named from notable individuals, and, though in the dates upon the tablets from that dynasty the kings from which the years were named are mentioned, it is difficult to say just which year was named for any particular man. The date is not far from 2350 B. C.

Here is one found at Jokka, the ancient Umma in Central Babylonia. It is a sealed temple record. After the tablet was written and while the clay was still soft, the temple priest rolled over it his cylindrical stone seal which was engraved, and the seal impression made it impossible to change the record. The seal impression shows raised characters and contains the name of the scribe and of his father, and the status of the seated sun god. This date is also about 2350 B. C.

ANOTHER found at Jokka is a messenger tablet with a list of provisions supplied the temple messenger for his journey about the country. The tablets are rare, and highly valued for the writing upon them is the finest and the best that has yet appeared. They are always small. The date is about 2350 B. C. and the condition is perfect.

This one was found at Warka, the biblical Erech mentioned in Genesis 10:10. "And the beginning of his kingdom was Ba-bel and E-rech and Ac-cad, and Cal-neh, in the land of Shi-nar." This is a votive cone made by the temple priest, and sold to the visiting pilgrim who thrust it into the mortar between the bricks of the temple wall of the goddess Ishtar, for the welfare of the king. The inscription reads: "For Sin-ga-shid, the mighty hero, King of Erech, King of Amanu, in the temple of the Goddess Ishtar which he built in the royal residence of his kingdom." The date is 2100 B. C.

Look upon this one found at Babylon. A typical late neo-Babyonian tablet from Nabonidus, the last Semitic king of Babylon from 555 to 538 B. C. He was the father of Belshazzar, who is said to have seen the writing of the hand on the wall.

And there are others, including one found at Babylon, an unusually good contract tablet from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon from 605 to 562 B. C. and bearing his name. It is about the average in size. The date reads: "The month (?), the day 7th, the year 20th of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon." That was the year 585 B. C.

All of these are important as recorded "documents" of the long ago, to show that the big red seals of today spring from an ancient line. It was about the year 2350 B. C. that the code of Hammurabi, the first complete written code of law ever found, was fashioned. It was discovered some 20 years ago. Sealed instruments of common law authenticated by impression in the temple, is something for the student of the law to observe and think about, and that is why they are there.

Parchments of early date, set with crude but effective seals, are to be found in the library. For instance there is a splendid original charter issued by King Charles II and signed and sealed November 30, 1678. It is similar to the Pennsylvania charter granted William Penn by the same monarch. There are deeds, grants and original documents bearing dates from 1666 to 1782. Indentures not only in name, but in fact with the edges cut unevenly, so that the proving of their originality and authenticity could be accomplished by the fitting of these irregular borders.

A DOCUMENT signed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, one by Rufus Choate, and a history of the University of Paris and its departments given to the library by Robert Craren, Bertillion officer, Omaha police department, which he found in a German ambulance after the signing of the armistice. Books in original bindings, reinforced by straps and bearing dates as early as 1529, are there. Commentations by Franci Dvareni, on paper as clean and white as the day it was bound, Joseph MacCardi compilations of 1684, the Auld Laws and Constitutions of Scotland, 1609.

Yearbooks of the reign of Edward II give the reports of decision handed down in the king's courts more than four hundred years before Blackstone was born, the Institutes of Justinian, 1529; Brooks' Abridgment, 1573, and a Registrum Omnium Brevium, 1634; Littletons's Tenures, 1621; Cooper's Thesaurus, 1573; Cokes Institutes, 1738; Henry Bracton, 1569; Glanville's Treatise on Laws and Constitutions of the English Kingdom, 1673; Winch's Entries, 1680; Justinian Code in the original binding, 1664, and a great array of canon, civil and feudal law illustrated with woodcuts that are a sight to see, with digests, reports and current reviews, as complete an array, as there is anywhere.

Nearly one entire floor in the stack room is devoted to the literature of the law, comprising the leading law reviews and treatises. In this library, it is said, may be found the largest collection of legal periodicals in the west, and it is one of the few libraries in this section with a real collection of English law. There is also considerable miscellaneous work. With common law as used by the English speaking peoples making up one-fourth of the law of the world, it is the aim of the Creighton university school of law library to get a copy of every case in common law jurisdiction, every English, Australian, Canadian and American case. This is well on the way to accomplishment with Australian cases and some odd in England yet to be obtained. The collection of briefs contains an almost complete set of the briefs filed in the supreme court of Nebraska, and some 35 editions of Blackstone's Commentaries, is well on the way to becoming "one of the most complete collections of the kind in the United States."

JANUARY 19, 1930

- Text as published in the Omaha World Herald on January 19, 1930
- Author unknown