The Hammurabic Code

copy of the Hammurabic CodeThe Law School community is fortunate to have a copy of a significant historical object. According to Robert Francis Harper's book titled Code of Hammurabi: King of Babylon, 2nd ed. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1904) the monument on which the Code is engraved was found in 1901 and 1902 (in several pieces). The original is housed in the Museum de Louvre. At the top there is a bas-relief depicting King Hammurabi receiving the Laws from the Sun God (Moses receiving the Ten Words [Commandments] from Yahweh corresponds). Under the relief are engraved 16 columns of text and 28 more on the reserve side. There are 282 laws in all. The Laws of Hammurabi were supposedly issued about 2050 B.C. and are reputed to be the oldest collection of laws. The next time you are in the Law Library stop and visit Hammurabi. 

According to a letter dated August 6, 1954 from William Jeffrey, Jr., Assistant Law Librarian at the Yale Law Library to Dr. Otto O. Fisher in Detroit, Wayne State's copy of the Hammurabic Code was apparently purchased by Dean Henry Wade Rogers of the Yale Law School sometime between 1905 and 1910. It was given to us on a permanent loan basis by the Yale Law School. G. Flint Purdy, Director of Library Services, accepted the Code in a letter dated September 15, 1954.

Mr. Jeffrey replied on November 21,1954 and said "... the Hammurabic Code was finally jockeyed out of the Sterling Law Buildings and was taken to the warehouse of Cohen & Powell for final crating last Thursday afternoon. Mr. Cohen thought that they would be having a van going west in about a week (or 10 days) ..."

The Code has indeed been "jockeyed" to several locations in its travels. Once it reached Wayne State it resided in the basement of the Purdy Library when the Law Library was housed there, then to the main floor of Purdy and since 1967 in its present location, the Arthur Neef Law Library. Since arriving in the Law Library, Hammurabi has been moved from here to there and now greets users in the lounge at the front of the library.

If you are interested in reading more about the Code you can consult Harper's book located in the Reserve Collection (call number K241.H34 1968) .