New York Times: Green Bag Bobbleheads Safe in Yale's Rare Books Collection

Not to be outdone by those who have bid extravagantly for Supreme Court bobbleheads in online auctions, Yale Law School's rare book collection currently holds a dozen of Mason Law Professor Ross Davies' nodding justices.

Why? According to Fred Shapiro, associate librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale, "A hundred years from now, if someone wants to study the bobbleheads, where will they go? There needs to be an archive."

For the uninitiated, the Supreme Court bobbleheads are the brainchild of Davies, who has produced them since 2003 in conjunction with the Green Bag, "an entertaining journal of law" of which Davies is editor-in-chief. The justices are adorned with clever symbols of some of the cases for which each is known. Davies distributes the editions of 1,000 to 2,000 bobbleheads through a rather inscrutable system that rewards some, but not all, of his subscribers, as well as select others.

"The bobbleheads are, not to overstate it, a little bit more than toys," says Davies. "They're portrayals of the work and character of these judges."

Yale's collection of the bobbleheads includes some that are early drafts and alternate versions, making them somewhat more rare than others. Part of the collection was opened for public viewing last week in the law school's rare book exhibition gallery, along with a display of medieval manuscript fragments.

Relax, Legal Scholars: Bobbleheads Are Safe at Yale, The New York Times, March 17, 2010. By Adam Liptak.

"These new acquisitions present challenges. 'I don’t know if anyone has cataloged bobbleheads before,' Mr. Shapiro said. 'This might be breaking new ground.'

"Part of the bobblehead collection was opened to public view last week in the law school’s rare book exhibition gallery, joining a display of 'medieval manuscript fragments in law book bindings.'

"Mike Widener, the school’s rare book librarian, said he had put some thought into which recent justices to highlight, settling on Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and John Paul Stevens. 'I did try to provide a bit of ideological balance,' Mr. Widener said.

"Jonathan Zelig, a second-year student, said the exhibit brightened the room, which can be 'a little staid.' But he noted a shortcoming. 'I have to notice that none of the justices graduated from Yale Law School,' Mr. Zelig said. 'That is a disappointment.'

"The Green Bag has created about one bobblehead a year, starting with Chief Justice Rehnquist in 2003 and adding more mostly in reverse order of seniority. It has not yet reached the three Yale graduates on the court: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor. Mr. Davies, a law professor at George Mason University, said a Justice Thomas doll was planned for next year."

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