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Law Library Special Collections

Accessing the Founders Collection

The Founders Collection is housed in the Law Library Special Collections Room.

Those wishing to access the collection should contact the Law Library Director at (757) 352-4233 or

About the Founders Collection

The Founders Collection once comprised the library of the first law school west of the Appalachians. Transylvania (latin for 'across-the-woods') University established its law department in Lexington, Kentucky in 1799, at a time when the only other university in the country to offer similar studies was the College of William & Mary. This pioneer law school was one of the most renowned of its day, praised by Thomas Jefferson, Justice Story and John Marshall Harlan.

The volumes of this library were used to train many of our young nation's finest lawyers, legislators and statesmen. Henry Clay was among the first faculty, and was a strong force in helping to support and expand the library. The school eventually closed its doors in 1861. Several subsequent attempts to revive the law department proved unsuccessful.


In 1994, the Regent University Law Library had the good fortune to acquire the near intact library from a bookseller who had obtained it from Transylvania University, where it had been in storage for some years. Careful research in the original catalog has revealed only a very few missing volumes two centuries later.

The Founders Collection totals 1,023 volumes and spans four centuries, from Fitzherbert’s La Grande Abridgement published in 1577, through early American imprints of Chitty, Story, and others during the first half of the 19th century. Approximately 60% of the collection is comprised of early American imprints consisting of treatises, reporters, and early state and federal materials such as legislative acts, reports, state papers, journals, and Congressional debates. The remainder of the collection consists of similar imprints from Great Britain including many 18th-century treatises and compilations.

To learn more, read Professor Charles Oates' article about the Founders Collection, Foraging the Transylvania Law Library : A Unique and Valuable Collection.