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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS -12681713

Benjamin Kaplan papers


Papers related to Benjamin Kaplan's careers as a professor, writer, and judge.


  • Creation: 1939-2010

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. Access to unpublished Harvard administrative records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation of the record. Access to student and personnel records is restricted for 80 years. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Historical & Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


1 collection (55 linear feet in 132 boxes)

The Benjamin Kaplan Papers span the years 1939-2010, with the bulk of the material falling between 1942 and 1972.

The collection includes the following: personal and professional correspondence, military documents, memoranda, teaching notes, sample assignments, syllabi, articles, drafts, galleys, speeches, notes, research materials, clippings, reviews, trial materials, opinions, decisions, collaborative writings, published materials, off-prints, photographs, lectures, books, and notebooks.

Kaplan’s papers reflect his careers as a military and civilian lawyer, a professor of law, and a judge. Series I contains information related to Kaplan’s work crafting the indictments at Nuremberg. Also of interest are papers that document his work on the Committee for Practice and Procedure, Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, for which he served as reporter. Additionally, there are extensive writings and a wide range of research material on copyright and comparative or international civil procedure, as well as Kaplan’s notes and writings from his time with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.

Historical/Biographical Information

Benjamin Kaplan was born in New York City on April 9, 1911. He graduated from Clinton DeWitt High School in 1925, from City College of New York in 1929, and from Columbia Law School in 1933. After completing his law degree, he entered private practice with the firm Greenbaum, Wolff & Earnst, where he remained until 1942, when he joined the army, drafting procurement contracts.

In 1943, Kaplan became part of the group of military lawyers (headed by Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson) who drafted the indictments at Nuremberg. He arrived at Harvard in 1947 as a visiting professor and remained at the school for twenty five years, until being appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1972. After reaching the mandatory age of retirement from the bench in 1983, Kaplan served as a recall judge for the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. In addition to his work as a professor and a judge, Kaplan also published numerous works, both individually and in collaboration with others. He is best known for his casebook on civil procedure, published with Professor Robert H. Field in 1953, and for An Unhurried View of Copyright (1967) , which grew out of a series of eponymously lectures he delivered at Columbia University the previous year. Kaplan died in Cambridge, Mass., on August 18, 2010.

Series List/Description

  1. Series I. MilitaryWork, 1942-1945 1942-1945 This series is comprised of military documents related toKaplan's career with the US Army.
  2. ___ SubseriesA. Nuremberg Trials, 1943-19451943-1945Non-classifiedmilitary documents related to Kaplan's work on the Nurembergindictments.
  3. ___Subseries B. War CrimesResearch Committee, 1950Established in 1949 by Harvard University President, James B.Conant, theCommittee on Materials from the War CrimesTrials was formed to study the question of what should bedone with the accumulated material about the war crimes beingaccessioned by Harvard. In 1950 the committee's work was supported bythe Carnegie Endowment.
  4. ___ Subseries C. Procurement / Contracts, 1942-19451942-1945Non-classified materials related to Kaplan's work writingprocurement contracts.
  5. Series II. Teaching,1939-1996 1939-1996 The bulk of the material in this series relate to Kaplan'squarter-century-long career as a professor of law at Harvard LawSchool. Documentation includes: teaching materials, correspondencewith a number of personal and professional contacts, and facultyroles in the administration of the Law School. In1991 Kaplan began teaching at Suffolk University. Most of thedocuments reflect course work related to classes in Copyright andCivil Procedure.
  6. ___ Subseries A. Course Material 1945-19821945-1982This series contains material related to Kaplan's teachingcareer.
  7. ___ Subseries B. Administrative, 1947-19721947-1972Thissubseries contains documentation of the administration of the LawSchool and the roles of faculty therein.
  8. ___ Subseries C. Suffolk University, 1991-19961991-1996
  9. Series III. Correspondence, 1939-1972 1939-1972 This seriescontains correspondence between Benjamin Kaplan and a number ofpersonal and professional contacts. The correspondence has beendivided into two subseries, differentiated by arrangement:alphabetical and chronological.
  10. ___ SubseriesA. Alphabetical
  11. ___ Subseries B. Chronological, 1947-19721947-1972
  12. Series IV. Judicial Career, 1967-2005 1967-2005 This series contains materials related to and created duringKaplan's tenure as both a Justice of the Massachusetts State SupremeJudicial Court and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.
  13. ___ Subseries A. Massachusetts Supreme JudicialCourt, 1970-19901970-1990
  14. ___ Subseries B. Massachusetts Court ofAppeals, 1982-20051982-2005
  15. Series V. AdvisoryCommittee on the Rules of Civil Procedure, 1953-19691953-1969

    Organized in 1956, the Advisory Committee on the Rules of CivilProcedure was formed by order of the Supreme Court to address thegrowing backlogs in the Federal court system. It was one of fivesubcommittees of the Committee on the Rules of Practice andProcedure. Kaplan served as the reporter.

  16. Series VI. Writings and Research, 1947-2002 1947-2002 This series containsmaterial created by Kaplan related to his writings. Transcripts ofhis speeches are also included. Additionally, articles and otherpublished material not written by Kaplan are in this series.
  17. ___Subseries A. Kaplanwritings
  18. ___Subseries B. Speeches
  19. ___Subseries C. Non-Kaplan
  20. ___Subseries D. Kaplan ResearchMaterial and Notes
  21. Series VII. Extraprofessional Work Inaddition to his work on the Advisory Committee on the Rules of CivilProcedure, Kaplan was involved in other work not related to Harvard.
  22. ___Subseries A. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Kaplan and Professor Livingston Hall were special editors of the May1953 issue of "The Annals", which was devoted to a series of articlesunder the topic of judicial administration.
  23. ___Subseries C. Panama Canal Zone Rent Hearings
  24. ___Subseries D. OtherOrganizations
  25. Series VIII. Addenda

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers were a gift of Nancy Mansbach, daughter of Benjamin Kaplan.

Processing Information

The Benjamin Kaplan Papers, consist of material retrieved from a basement where they had been stored for many years. This led to considerable loss due to water and mold damage. This collection represents what was salvaged from the basement.

In addition to the loss of documents, most of the original order to the collection was lost. This finding aid represents the archivists best effort to organize the material in a reasonable way.

Processing Information

Processed by Katherine Proctor July 2011. Additional processing by Edwin Moloy in July 2014.

Kaplan, Benjamin. Papers, 1939-2010: Finding Aid
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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