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Lawyers and Their Books: The Augusta County Law Library Association, 1853-1883

Gregory Harkcom Stoner
Major Professor: 
Rachel Fleming-May
Committee Members: 
Kimberly Douglass
Cindy Welch
May 2012


During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, law books of various types contained the vital information needed by Virginia’s practicing attorneys and judges. Access to these resources, however, was generally limited to personal collections and a handful of libraries. Despite numerous calls for the creation of libraries by theVirginiagovernment, state legislators took little action of note.

This study explores the history and origins of law libraries in Virginia by focusing on the formation and evolution of the Augusta County Law Library Association, one of the first libraries organized in Virginia under state legislation enacted in 1853 that authorized the creation of law libraries by local bar associations. The commitment to action and understanding of their profession exhibited by the Augusta bar association represents a singular example of professional awareness and unity during this period. The successes of this and other emerging libraries of the era also lead to the development of library forms and practices that persist to the present day. In examining the activities of the library association between 1853 and 1883, this study interprets and explains how this unique library and its unified organizers constitute a noteworthy development in both the history of libraries and the practice of law.