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Boston College Law Library

Celebrating Banned Books Week

"No list available will give the names of all the books that you would want kept out of your lending library." So wrote the Secretary of Boston's own New England Watch and Ward Society in a letter dated July 8, 1930. While the threat of censorship may be less apparent today, the American Library Association's Banned Book Week is an opportunity to celebrate the freedom to seek out and to express ideas and viewpoints, even unpopular ones. Stop by the law library's Banned Book Week exhibit to learn more about books that have been banned and challenged in the United States.

Banned in Boston - The N.E. Watch and Ward Society

Banned Books Week is particularly relevant in Boston - a city once famous for censorship. The city was so aggressive in banning books, plays, films, and songs, that publishers used the phrase "Banned in Boston" to promote their edgier titles to the rest of the country. The New England Watch and Ward Society, founded in 1879 as the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice, was the force behind much of the censorship, and their papers are now available online from the Harvard Libraries.

American Museum of Tort Law Opens in CT

The American Museum of Tort Law is open for visitors! Founded by consumer advocate and presidential candidate Ralph Nader and located in his hometown of Winstead, CT, it houses artifacts from a number of landmark consumer protection cases, including a Chevrolet Corsair. Nader's 1965 book Unsafe at any Speed drew from over 100 lawsuits claiming that the Corsair's poor handling had caused accidents. Legal Eagle BlogPhoto by Crwpitman, CC BY-SA.

Learning the Law, from Abatement to Wreck

The Rare Book Room just added a new commonplace book to its collection. Published in London in 1680, this book was a learning tool for law students.  The book lists topics in alphabetical order - from Abatement de breve to Wreck - with blank space for the student to fill in with notes and precedents. Learn more on the Rare Book Room Blog.

Henry Miller

Books On Trial: Tropic of Cancer

In 1950, Ernest Besig, the director of the ACLU in Northern California, sued the government after customs prevented him from importing Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Judge Louis A. Goodman declared the book obscene in that case. Grove Press published the novel in the U.S. in 1961 which triggered several obscenity lawsuits against booksellers that sold it. The courts’ opinions varied. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled state court findings that Tropic of Cancer was obscene in Grove Press, Inc. v. Gerstein. Photo by NCMallory, CC BY.

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