The History of Forms

The History of Forms Exhibit Cover

Form books have been a staple of Anglo-American legal literature since the 12th century. These books, often called books of precedents, offer form or sample documents that help lawyers prepare legal documents. The proliferation of this type of source makes sense. Lawyers spend a great deal of time drafting pleadings, motions, briefs, contracts, articles of incorporation, bylaws--the list goes on.

Today, many sources of forms are digital (think of Westlaw’s FormFinder; annotated forms on Practical Law and Lexis Practice Advisor; and many others, both free and subscription), allowing for quick editing and customization. This exhibit looks at the forerunners of these in-demand electronic sources and examines the long tradition in our legal literature of providing forms for lawyers’ drafting tasks.

The exhibit was curated by Laurel Davis, Curator of Rare Books/Legal Reference Librarian. It will remain on view until February 2017. Please come in and take a look!

The exhibit catalog is available to download.


Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room