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    LLMC-Digital, the online platform of the nonprofit Law Library Microform Consortium, makes a wide range of legal and governmental publications available online for the use of the academic community. The content and interface of LLMC-Digital are reviewed here; its value for use in historical research is compared to other databases in a CRL topic guide.

    May 17, 2024 7:37pm
    Collection Content

    LLMC-Digital provides access to online facsimiles of millions of pages of printed material representing more than 12,000 titles relating to the history of law. This material is divided into major content areas: U.S. Federal Government, U.S. States and Territories, Canada, Germany, United Kimgdom, and Anglo-American Collections, Foreign Jurisdictions, International Law and Organizations, and Special Focus Collections.

    LLMC-Digital has perhaps the most comprehensive collection of material on law in the former British Empire available online. Researchers looking at the legal history of Canada, India, the British Caribbean, mandate Palestine, and Commonwealth nations in Africa, and the United Kingdom proper will find extensive source matwrilas in LLMC-Digital. The database includes nearly every reported case from the British Empire before 1900. While much of this material for Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom is also available through other providers, material for other parts of the empire—such as Malaysia, India, and the Caribbean—is unique. For example, LLMC-Digital provides the only online access to the decisions of courts in India prior to 1850, as well as the complete seventeen volumes of Malaysia/Singapore law reports for 1926–42. LLMC-Digital also allows scholars access to much more recent material than is available in other databases, such as the statutes and laws of the island of Anguilla from the 1970s and the 1966 constitutional proceedings from the Windward Islands. This collection, largely derived from the authoritative bibliography of British Imperial law by LLMC’s Director of Content Development Jerry Dupont, is a critical resource for researchers interested in the history of the British Empire.1

    U.S. Federal Law

    LLMC-Digital, with nearly 800 titles relating to U.S. federal law, is a diverse collection with strengths in a few particular areas. Though a legal history database, LLMC-Digital has wisely chosen to focus on legislative, executive, and judicial texts outside the traditional scope of other historical legal resources. Like many other providers, LLMC-Digital includes all the reported cases of the U.S. Supreme court up to a recent date, and all the compiled statutes of the U.S. Although it lacks a particularly strong collection of federal case reports or individual laws, LLMC-Digital contains many mid-20th century pamphlets, reports, and statistics published by the Government Printing Office relating to law and diplomacy that are not available online elsewhere. It also contains a good collection of difficult-to-find administrative agency reports (such as the National Labor Relations Board). LLMC-Digital also offers more than 100 published reports and documents about the federal judicial system, including a host of texts from the Federal Judicial Center dating from the 1970s. Although some of these reports are available online through U.S. government outlets, a greater number are not. Researchers looking for an eclectic mix of print material about the workings of the federal government in the 20th century will find this section of LLMC-Digital useful.

    U.S. State Law

    LLMC-Digital holds more than 2,800 titles relating to the law and government of U.S. states. These include large sets of printed case reports, laws, and government reports, in some cases totaling over 1,000 volumes for a given state. Researchers looking for cases from state appellate courts, session laws, and opinions of state attorneys general will find them here. This state material is most comprehensive for the period before the 1920s and does not include the proceedings and minutes of state legislatures. LLMC-Digital contains especially good coverage for the states of Pennsylvania, New York, and Hawaii, including digitized copies of local law journals, legal newspapers, and copious official publications. It also includes a limited number of documents related to state constitutions and constitutional conventions (notably for Colorado, Illinois, and Virginia). The majority of this content can also be found through databases like Westlaw and LexisNexis, but not in page image form. Note that LLMC-Digital’s state law collection largely does not include the proceedings and minutes of State legislatures though LLMC-Digital promises that many new digitized titles in this area are forthcoming.

    Haiti Legal Patrimony Collection

    After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, LLMC-Digital combined forces with major research libraries to build a digital repository for primary sources on the Haitian law and government. The project, now near completion, has made over 600 titles available online through LLMC-Digital. This spectacular collection of material, including some in manuscript, had previously been relatively untouched in digitization initiatives. Although the majority of the titles available date from the 20th century, they were often very difficult to find either in print or online. Due to the nature of the collaborative scanning project, most of this material is available for free online through the Library of Congress or the University of Florida.

    Treaties and Documents Relating to Native American Legal History

    LLMC-Digital holds an impressive collection of more than 500 constitutions, treaties, and laws associated with Native American communities in the United States. Over 90 percent of these texts date from the period 1935-45 when the codification and formation of Native American law reached a fevered pitch. Hein Online’s American Indian Law Collection has recently mirrored most of this content and a significant number of titles from the collection can also be found through the Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project at the University of Oklahoma. However, LLMC-Digital does provide access to a few recent reference and bibliographical works unavailable elsewhere online.

    Legal Treatises and Guides

    LLMC-Digital contains hundreds of legal treatises, textbooks, and commentaries. The majority concern Anglo-American law and date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the database also includes older titles from the 17th and 18th century as well as texts on international law, comparative law, and legal philosophy. A large number of the treatises in LLMC-Digital are also available publicly on the web or through other database providers such as Gale’s Making of Modern Law. However, LLMC-Digital often provides access to alternate editions or later printings of treatises than are available elsewhere. For instance, LLMC-Digital holds a scarce 1854 Boston edition of a popular landlord and tenant legal guide whereas Gale’s Making of Modern Law has only an earlier edition. In addition, the LLMC-Digital collection contains an important set of editions and works concerning the great English jurist Sir William Blackstone. Editions of Blackstone are commonplace on the web, but LLMC-Digital offers researchers 107 titles relating to his work, including 20 editions of his Commentaries on the Laws of England published before 1800.

    American Military Law

    There are over 400 titles on United States military law in LLMC-Digital, including volumes of court martial reports, historical manuals on military law, and primary documents issued by military authorities during times of war. A large part of the collection however is made up of theses written by officers completing Judge Advocate General training. Of the more than 100 theses on military law topics, close to half seem to be also available through U.S. government web outlets. 

    Canon Law Treatises

    LLMC-Digital contains nearly 60 primary and secondary titles relating to Canon law, including texts dating to the 15th century and into the 20th. The collection is particularly strong in French commentaries and sources from the 19th century as well as compilations of tribunal proceedings at the Roman Rota. While primary sources and manuscripts on medieval and early modern law can be found digitized in many places on the web, LLMC-Digital’s collection of more modern Canon law works is quite unique.

    World Legal Systems

    LLMC-Digital provides researchers with access to primary documents on the law and legal system of 51 countries or jurisdictions (though a list of nearly 190 countries appears in a dropdown menu on the site). LLMC-Digital’s coverage is best for members of the former British Empire as well as countries of Africa (through the Common Law Abroad digitization efforts) and Latin America & the Caribbean (particularly Haiti and Cuba). Its holdings for Canada are particularly comprehensive and include many legislative journals and provincial session laws though not more recent in-copyright court reports. Countries outside of these focus areas receive scattered and eclectic coverage of a few titles each. (Appendix A contains a map displaying LLMC-Digital's holdings by country.)


    Researchers can navigate LLMC-Digital several ways: faceted collection browse, full-text searching, unstructured searching of bibliographic data, or structured dropdown menus of titles and official citations.

    • The faceted browse presents seven collections of materials as arranged by LLMC, generally by jurisdiction or topic. Clicking on these facets will expand to subheadings ultimately browsed title by title. (Note that the collection division is based on an internal logic; content from the British Empire generally is under "multi-jurisdiction", but specific countries are under "Foreign Jurisdictions", while the practice of law in the Empire is under "Anglo-American".
    • LLMC-Digital includes both basic and advanced (multiple terms with Boolean operators) full-text search options. All of the texts in LLMC-Digital are word-searchable; clicking on the title of a search result will bring up a list of highlighted text snippets from each page of the book with relevant search results. Clicking on these will bring up a PDF page image.
    • In addition to searching in the entire text of a document, the bibliographic search feature allows users to do a blanket search of the bibliographic information associated with a text (title, subjects, place of etc.). Users can search by LLMC-Digital item number.
    • LLMC-Digital offers the ability to search by legal citation; it provides a dropdown menu of legal abbreviations available for the user to find a known citation (e.g. 17 F. Cas. 321). The user can also choose from a separate dropdown list of all titles in LLMC-Digital alphabetically arranged by sub-collection, and enter a page number to be taken directly to the appropriate page image.

    All documents within LLMC-Digital are initially served to the reader in PDF format within the browser. When choosing a title, users are given a PDF page image of the title page. Navigation from here is done in one of two ways. Researchers may click an arrow to move through the document one PDF page at a time, or they may select a page range of up to 100 pages in length to view as a single PDF. These PDFs may be saved to the user’s computer. However, texts longer than 100 pages must be viewed and saved in chunks, at no small inconvenience to the researcher. LLMC-Digital does not offer a plain-text viewing option for their holdings. However, all PDFs in LLMC-Digital have been processed using OCR software so users may highlight or extract the raw text from PDFs for use elsewhere. This text, like all OCR’d documents, can be quite messy and unwieldy with mystery characters and phantom line breaks.

    Strengths and Weaknesses

    LLMC-Digital’s greatest strengths are in its collections and the availability of an impressive number of primary source page images. Its holdings relating to the British Empire are unrivaled elsewhere and no other source has such a diverse range of world legal material, from British Guiana to Papua New Guinea (see Appendix A for a map). Outside of LexisNexis and Westlaw (typically available to only certain groups of researchers except for LexisNexis Academic), LLMC-Digital is the best one-stop provider of consistent historical runs of U.S. State legal material including state supreme court reports. In addition, its collection of federal administrative documents, though eclectic, is difficult to find in one place elsewhere. Finally, LLMC-Digital deserves special mention for pioneering the scanning of Haitian legal material and making much of it available to the public for free. (Appendix B contains a quantitative analysis of a sample of LLMC-Digital's holdings.)

    Despite strong unique collections in several areas, a sample of a portion of LLMC-Digital's holdings showed over 75 percent overlaps with freely available and commercial services (see Appendix B). This would perhaps be less of a concern if not for LLMC-Digital's weakness in how its content is discovered and delivered, which is most noticeable in its user interface and in volume level metadata.

    At the level of user interface, the inability to easily pull-up PDFs of an entire document or flip pages with the ease researchers have come to expect from Google books is a serious liability. Moving around in a document using the start and end page dropdowns can also be frustrating for users. Likewise, the lack of easily accessible/readable plain text of documents might be a drawback for some researchers.

    LLMC-Digital also contains many titles that suffer from overly general or confusing descriptive metadata. Researchers using the alphabetical search title dropdown menu are greeted with a bewildering array of acronyms that determine the organization of titles. Someone wishing to locate Giles Jacob’s Law Dictionary would find it not under “L” or “J” but “A” for “AAref Jacob’s Law Dictionary.” These short titles designating an artificial collection name (e.g., Anglo-American reference) can be helpful to advanced researchers (as they consist of a curated set of titles on a given subject) but are more often than not entirely frustrating to a first-time or casual user.

    Making long runs of legal serials easily findable is a challenge for all content providers, and LLMC-Digital does not always succeed at the task. Especially frustrating can be the search for a particular item within a list of dozens of volumes bearing identical titles, distinguished only by volume numbers. For example, a researcher looking for just the 1917 volume of the Arizona Supreme Court Reports would have to know what volume number it happened to bear in order to find it, or proceed by trial and error. This hints at a larger problem. For historians and those interested in particular chronological periods, LLMC-Digital does not offer easy ways of finding relevant material. In LLMC-Digital there is no way to limit a search by date, either of publication or of the underlying source material. Furthermore, the dates attached to records can be misleading. For example, a set of court proceedings from Scotland up to the year 1660 would appear to a researcher as “Scot- Jud Aberdeenshire Sheriff Court Records 1904-07” because they were published between 1904 and 1907. It is not difficult to see how this could hinder the discovery of valuable sources.


    University of Pennsylvania

    • Mitch Fraas, Judith and William Bollinger Fellow in Library Innovation
    Additional Reviews in Other Sources

    Chua, Hui Hua. "LLMC Digital." The Charleston Advisor. October 2006. p. 25. http://charleston.publisher.ingentaconnect.com/content/charleston/chadv… Accessed November 26, 2013.



    1Jerry Dupont, The Common Law Abroad: Constitutional ad Legal Legacy of the British Empire. Littleton, CO: F.B. Rothman, 2001.


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