Morris Cohen, law librarian and Yale Law professor, dies

Morris L. Cohen, beloved librarian and professor at Yale Law School, died last Saturday at his home in New Haven. He was 83.

Cohen was Professor Emeritus of Law and a lecturer at the Law School since 1991. He served as the Law School librarian from 1981 to 1991.

In his obituary, the New York Times hailed him as “one of the nation’s most influential legal librarians,” who brought both the Harvard and Yale law libraries into the digital age. Prior to his work at Yale, Cohen also directed the law libraries at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and SUNY-Buffalo.

“Morris was admired throughout the entire community of legal education. We share with many others a great loss to the world of legal scholarship,” Yale Law School Dean Robert Post LAW ’77 said in the obituary published on the YLS website. “We will miss his humor, his kindness, his gentle wisdom, and his fascination with books and research.”

Cohen, who received his B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1947 and his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1951, published extensively on legal history. His six-volume “Bibliography of Early American Law” catalogs all law books published in the U.S. before 1860. His other books include “The Bench and Bar: Great Caricatures from Vanity Fair…” and “A Guide to the Early Reports of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

In 2009, Cohen donated his “Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection” to the Yale Law Library. The collection included books for children about law and justice that he had been collecting since around 1960. Collecting these books became a hobby he shared with his son, who was six years old at the time.

“Morris Cohen is one of the great law librarians and book collectors of the twentieth century, and it is an honor to have this unique collection. I don’t know of any other collection like it anywhere,” Michael Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Law Library, said in a YLS press release at the time.

Cohen’s wife, Gloria, told the New York Times that he died of Leukemia. He is survived by his wife; his son, Daniel; his daughter, Havi Hoffman; and granddaughter Rachel Hoffman.

His funeral was held last Monday at the Robert E. Schure Funeral Home in New Haven.

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