If you’re looking for an early Valentine’s Day gift, know a Swedish lawyer who’s into civil procedure (more on that later) or simply want a piece of RBG-owned literature, there’s a place for you.
Bonhams is running an online auction of books and other literary items from the Watergate apartment of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Here you’ll find more than 1,000 books with inscriptions from fellow justices, some of Ginsburg’s old, annotated law textbooks, and gifts from Gloria Steinem and Annie Leibovitz.
You could even see the corrections she gave on one of her colleague’s books – after its publication.
And no collection of Ginsburg-iana would be complete without honorary degrees from Brown University and Smith College.
Here’s what caught our eye:
Lots 1, 2 and 4: Textbooks
Three textbooks from Ginsburg’s time at Harvard and Columbia are up for grabs, including volumes on civil procedure and property.
Passages are underlined and annotated, so if you were hoping for a pristine version of Cornelius Moynihan’s 1940 “A Preliminary Survey of the Law of Real Property,” you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Lot 3: The 1957-58 Harvard Law Review
For the Harvard Law Review completists out there, there’s RBG’s annotated copy from her year on the law review.
According to Bonhams, Ginsburg heavily annotated an essay titled “Problems of Parallel State and Federal Remedies” and one titled “Price-Restrictive Patent Licenses Under the Sherman Act,” by Helmut F. Furth. In the latter, Ginsburg “underscores and annotates Furth’s history of the price-fixing patent and the court’s regulation of the same.”
Lot 5: Swedish civil procedure
Ginsburg’s first published book, “Civil Procedure in Sweden,” with Anders Bruzelius (1965), didn’t take the US book markets by storm, but the field of civil procedure was one she would come to focus on for the remainder of her career. (Justice Antonin Scalia once described Ginsburg to CNN’s Joan Biskupic as “a tigress on civil procedure.”)
“It’s just instinctive to me,” she told Biskupic in early 2020. “Procedure is supposed to serve the people that law exists to serve.”
“Reading and observing another system made me understand my own system so much better,” Ginsburg added of her time in Sweden.
This item is incomplete without Lot 103 – a collection of Swedish law books.
Also Lot 75 – a collection of photos of the late justice in Sweden from 2019.
Lots 16 and 33: Honorary certificates in Latin
For Smith College and Brown University grads, libraries or alumni societies, RBG’s honorary degrees from 1994 and 2002, respectively.
Seriously, this is a no-brainer. Buy the degree, present it to the school, take the tax benefit, etc. Don’t let some random Dartmouth fan make off with this one.
Lot 25: If you are Larry Tribe
An inscribed copy of Tribe’s Harvard Law Review essay “Taking Text and Structure Seriously: Reflections on Free-form Method in Constitutional Interpretation.”
Lot 28 and 62: Leibovitz, Sontag and Steinem
Two books inscribed to Ginsburg are symbols of the influence she had on the world at large for women who benefited from her example and the trails that she blazed.
Steinem’s book, “My Life on the Road,” carries the inscription: “To dearest Ruth — who paved the road for us all — with a lifetime of gratitude — Gloria.”
It’s also fetching a pretty penny. As of Tuesday evening, the bidding was at $18,000 and climbing. (Bonham’s valuation: $300 to $500.)
Annie Leibovitz and Susan Sontag presented Ginsburg with a copy of their book “Women,” which includes a double-page spread with RBG and the first female Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. (The book came out in 1999; it would be 10 more years before another woman joined the bench.)
Lot 38: ‘Beloved’
A reissue of Toni Morrison’s classic inscribed to Ruth and Marty Ginsburg. Yes, please.
Lots 32, 36, 39, 56, 71 and more: Books from other justices
Supreme Court justices are prolific writers on and off the bench, so no surprise Ginsburg would have copies of her colleagues’ books on her shelves.
For sale are books given to her by Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Neil Gorsuch and former Justice John Paul Stevens.
Perhaps the most fun is Lot 50: “Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir,” from Stevens. According to the auction house, RBG made minor corrections to the book even after it was published, and someone (Bonhams acknowledges it could have been a clerk) “flagged her appearances with green tabs.”
Lot 54: A gift from Scalia
Scalia and Ginsburg were famous friends despite being on opposite sides of the bench for more than two decades. Scalia’s note with a copy of his book “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” with Bryan Garner, was short and sweet: “For your summer reading. Sincerely, Nino.”
Now, a textual reading of the note might imply that it could be read only in the summer, and specifically the summer of 2012. But it’s a book, and why should people be limited from reading or referencing it at any other time of the year? Who would enforce a law about what people consent to read in their own homes? Finally, the note begs the question if buyers can’t read the book at all, given it was a note from Scalia to Ginsburg in 2012 and says nothing about the year 2022 or mentions the idea of a third party looking at the book.
Lot 138: Love and marriage
This lot of 10 books is called “Grief and Widowhood,” but what it really does is celebrate Marty Ginsburg and Ruth Bader’s 50-year-plus marriage, which began with early days at Harvard and ended with his death in 2010.
There’s an inscribed copy of Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” the late author’s 2006 book about the year following the death of her husband, inscribed to Marty and Ruth.
“Wedding Days. When and How Great Marriages Began,” by Susan J. Gordon, features a section on the Ginsburgs’ relationship. The inscription: “For Ruth and Martin, loving partners in their own great marriage.”
Lot 143: The stars come out
What do Tina Fey, Alec Guinness and Padma Lakshmi have in common? They’re all here in a lot of books (and a DVD!) of celebrity memoirs and biographies.
The set includes a copy of Fey’s “Bossypants,” gifted to Ginsburg from a former law clerk (a rarity among the collection that’s being sold), two copies of “Along the Way,” by Martin Sheen and son Emilio Estevez, and Diane von Furstenberg’s “The Woman I Wanted to Be.”
Lot 151: Woodward and Bernstein
This lot celebrates journalists and investigative journalism, including the two Bob Woodward-Carl Bernstein blockbusters, “All the President’s Men” and “The Final Days.”
Fascinating to a few legal watchers will be RBG’s copy of “The Brethren,” from Woodward and Scott Armstrong. Published in 1979, it was a surprising account of the Supreme Court behind the scenes as justices hashed out landmark decisions. Justices then – and now – prefer to let their writings be the final word and keep their deliberations and drafts private.
But hurry, bidding closes Thursday.