The Judiciary Library rare book collection holds over six hundred volumes of early British and Hong Kong legal publications. The collection is housed in the environmentally-controlled Rare Book Room in the High Court Library. You may access further details about the collection via the links below.
Since the establishment of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong in 1844, the Judiciary Library had accumulated a substantial holding of early legal literature. Publication of these books spanned from as early as the 17th to the 19th century.
With decades passed by, physical condition and appearances of the book collection have regrettably become far from satisfactory. The High Court Library, as a result of its renovation project in 2010/11, has been able to make provision for a Rare Book Room to accommodate the collection with devices for climate control, thus enabling us to enhance preservative measures for care of the books. (See Facilities.)
To set up a collection of rare books, some guidelines were drawn up based on which books are designated as ‘Rare’. (See Identification of Rare Books.) All the rare items so selected from the bookshelves are housed in the Rare Book Room and are subject to the special conditions of use by the readers. (SeeServices Guidelines.)
The Rare Book Collection now has a total of over 600 volumes. It is divided into four sections: Hong Kong Collection, 17th Century Collection, 18th Century Collection and 19th Century Collection. It includes chiefly the rare copies of early Hong Kong and British law texts and reports.
We hope that these rich resources of legal classics, textbooks, digests, abridgments, encyclopedias will be beneficial to the legal professionals and researchers with interest in the area of law history.
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| Identification of Rare Books
Books are designated as ‘rare’ when they meet the criteria below:
- All pre-1800 imprints.
- For Hong Kong Collection, all pre-1945 textbooks.
- Fundamental works of the 19th century British law books, and wherever possible, the first editions are to be chosen.
Law reports that form part of a series are generally not considered for classification as 'rare'.
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- Hong Kong Collection
The Hong Kong Collection contains about 50 volumes of books chiefly published before 1945, including 19th century ordinances
and regulations, early editions of Laws of Hong Kong, textbooks, reports on specific social and legal issues etc.
Booklist on Hong Kong Collection
- 17th Century Collection (1601-1700)
The Collection includes 36 volumes of the 17th century English legal classics. The oldest book is the 1607 edition of a law dictionary The Interpreter: or Booke Containing the Signification of Words.
Booklist on 17th Century Collection
- 18th Century Collection (1701-1800)
The 18th Century Collection contains 130 volumes of legal publications, mainly law reports. Most of the reports were named after the judges or jurists who did the reporting, compiling and editing.
Booklist on 18th Century Collection
- 19th Century Collection(1801-1900)
The more sizable 19th Century Collection of textbooks, law reports, abridgments, biographies, digests and modern encyclopedias contains approximately 400 volumes.
Booklist on 19th Century Collection
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- Books borrowed from the Rare Book Collection are restricted for use inside the Library.
- Generally the Rare Book Room is not for open access.
- To access the Rare Book Collection, please obtain a request slip from the service counter and fill in the author, title, and call no. and hand to the duty staff for retrieval.
- Please hand in the request slip not less than 30 minutes before the Library closes.
- Reader is allowed to borrow a maximum of two items each time.
- Readers should handle and read the rare books with care and with clean hands.
- Never place an opened rare book facing down.
- No unauthorized photography is permitted, including the use of digital cameras, mobile phones, computer scanning devices, etc.
- The rare book with a green label on the inside cover is not allowed for photocopying. They are particularly vulnerable to further weakening of the physical condition in the course of photocopying.
- For rare books without a green label, photocopying is permitted if done by the Library staff up to a limited quantity, at a charge of $4 per page. The Judiciary Librarian reserves the right to decide the allowable quantity for photocopying according to individual circumstances, such as damage that may be made during the photocopying process to the bindings or the fragile paper, or damage resulting from light exposure, etc.
- Please lodge the photocopying request with the counter staff not less than 30 minutes before the Library closes.
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- The FM 200 fire suppression system equipped in the Rare Book Room has the capacity of extinguishing fire within seconds.
- The Rare Book Room is environmentally controlled round the clock with a constant temperature and humidity.
- The Room is windowless to keep the exposure to the damaging effects of light and dust to the minimum.
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