The George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine

Bookplate of the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine

Bookplate of the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine

In 1933, Frances Glessner Lee made an additional gift to establish the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine, as a resource for the new academic department.  Ten years later, Harvard's Board of Overseers appointed her as its honorary curator, and she continued to acquire and donate rare and contemporary books, journals, and manuscripts in legal medicine and medical jurisprudence.  

Highlights of the Magrath Library include rare trial accounts, works on criminology, toxicology, and poisoning, including a 15th century Italian manuscript of Petrus de Abano‚Äôs De Venenis, a 1498 printing of Sebastian Brant's Stultifera Navis ("Ship of fools") and a collection of unique material concerning Charles J. Guiteau, the assassin of President James A. Garfield, with poems written by Guiteau while in prison, his own copy of his autobiography The Truth and the Removal, and the diary of his spiritual counselor, William Watkin Hicks.  The Magrath Library also contains the John Rathbone Oliver Criminological Collection, with trial transcripts, rare pamphlets, broadside ballads, newspaper clippings, journal extracts, prints and engravings, and ephemera dealing with murder cases, executions, prisons, and criminal behavior generally, from the late 17th century through the early 1930s.   John Rathbone Oliver (1872-1943), Harvard graduate, priest, classical scholar, and physician specializing in psychiatry, was the Chief Medical Officer to the Supreme Bench of Baltimore from 1917 until 1930.  He was a great-grandson of the brother-in-law of the murdered physician George Parkman (1790-1849), and to this fact he attributed his initial interest in criminology and criminal psychiatry.  Dr. Oliver donated his collection to Harvard in 1936 to add a key historical component to the Magrath Library. 

By 1964, the Magrath Library held some 3,700 volumes; the library's holdings were transferred into the Countway following the dissolution of the Department of Legal Medicine.

An Endowment for Legal Medicine
The George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine