Marshall's Maps, the U.S. Reports, and the New Judicial Restraint


This version contains low-resolution images. For a version with high-resolution images, please email the author at As a biographer of George Washington, John Marshall was a believer in the value of pictures as complements to the written word. Both the first and second editions of his Life of Washington feature an “Atlas” of handsome maps of various regions and locales as they appeared at important points in Washington’s career. (Nowadays, the text-filled volumes of the Life are easy to find, but the atlases are rare and expensive to the point of inaccessibility. So, the Green Bag is sharing an atlas on pages 453-462 below – in black-and-white print and color pdf.) As a member of the Supreme Court, however, Marshall apparently had little interest in illustrations. There were very few in the U.S Reports for the 34 years he served on the Court. Modern Justices seem to hold the opposite view. They put illustrations (sometimes lavishly large and colorful ones) in their judicial opinions, but their extrajudicial book projects rarely have more than a few pictures, and those they do include are invariably plain and small and black-and-white. Perhaps times – and judicio-authorial perspectives on pictures – have changed. Or perhaps not. A quick comparison of the circumstances in which Marshall’s writings and those of his modern successors have included illustrations – lavish or plain – suggests that in at least two respects thinking about pictures is as Marshallian today as it was in Marshall’s day: (1) the Justices do indeed like to illustrate their work, but (2) their publishers print lavish pictures only when they have no choice, and opt for black-and-white when they can.