The Wainwright Collection

W.B. Scott, A. Wainwright, Francis Lacoste, Hugh O’Donnell, W.C.J. Meredith, 8 Feb. 58 

In 1958, the McGill University Law Library acquired a prestigious collection on the history of French law. This unique collection was carefully assembled by the French jurist François Olivier-Martin, and later journeyed from Paris to Le Havre before finally taking its place at the McGill University Law Library. Acquiring the collection was made possible through the financial support of Arnold Wainwright and the invaluable intercessions of Professor Jean-Gabriel Castel with the Olivier-Martin family. The collection consists of approximately 800 works comprising 1,200 volumes and is today proudly conserved at controlled atmospheric conditions in the Laing Room of the Nahum Gelber Law Library.

Olivier-Martin, reputed for his significant work Histoire du droit français des origines à la Révolution1, drew from this collection which covers all of French legal history. Now called the Wainwright Collection, its highlight lies in the extensive materials on the law of the Ancien Régime which combine rare editions on customary law and commentaries. These were used by Olivier-Martin to write Histoire de la Coutume et de la Prévôté et Vicomté de Paris2 as well as Organisation corporative de la France d’Ancien régime3.

French customary law played an essential role in the early development of Quebec private law. It is for this reason that McGill University is delighted to contribute to the growing influence of civil law, providing the research community access to a valuable piece of the Quebec legal heritage.

1 2d éd., Paris, CNRS, 1995 (Nahum Gelber Law Library KJV 252 O45 1995) ; Paris, Domat Montchrestien, 1948 (Nahum Gelber Law Library KJV 252 O45 1948).

2 2 vol, Paris, Cujas, 1972 (Nahum Gelber Law Library KJV 264 P373 O46 1972) ; Paris, Leroux, 1922 (Nahum Gelber Law Library KJV 264 P373 O46 1922).

3 Paris, Librairie du Recueil Sirey, 1938 (Nahum Gelber Law Library HS55 F8 O4 1938).


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