Would You Like To Own A Book From Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Library?
Here's your chance—but you better be prepared to pay up....
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I had been keeping an eye for weeks on the Bonhams auction of items from the library of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And I have a confession to make: I didn’t write or tweet about it until now because I was hoping to maybe pick up an item or two for myself—and letting more people know about the auction would only increase the competition.
I knew that even without any mention from me, there would be keen interest in items from Justice Ginsburg’s collection. After all, the #NotoriousRBG was not just a legal but also a cultural icon, widely admired not only for her jurisprudence but for her remarkable career as a crusader for equality and justice. How many justices have been the subject of multiple movies, including a feature-length film starring Felicity Jones, and bestselling books, such as Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik’s Notorious RBG?
So I expected the interest in the auction to be high. Last week, before the bidding opened, I told my husband Zach that the Bonhams estimates were way too low. But I had no idea just how low:
Actually, correction: some items are selling for 20 or even 40 times their high estimates. Consider Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road (2016), inscribed to Justice Ginsburg by Steinem as follows: “To dearest Ruth—who paved the road for us all—with a lifetime of gratitude—Gloria.” This lot, as of this writing the most expensive item, has a current bid of $22,000—44 times its high estimate of $500.
And that’s just one example of a book that’s subject to fierce bidding. We’re all familiar with the obscene prices of law school casebooks, which can sell for hundreds of dollars—but casebooks once owned by Justice Ginsburg go into the thousands. Check out lots 1, 2, and 4, RBG’s textbooks for Civil Procedure, Property, and Jurisprudence, where bids have reached $8,000, $4,500, and $6,500, respectively. All three volumes have Ginsburg’s annotations and marginalia, which is pretty freaking cool—offering their new owners the chance to see a great legal mind at work.
As an admirer of the across-the-aisle friendship between the liberal Justice Ginsburg and her conservative colleague, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, I was most interested in the various lots with a Scalia/Ginsburg connection—such as the inscribed copies of the two books that Justice Scalia co-authored with legal writing guru Bryan Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012). Alas, the current bids for these books are $4,200 and $6,500, for two different editions of Making Your Case, and a whopping $12,000, for Reading Law—well beyond my price point.
But many of you are successful practicing lawyers with financial resources that vastly outstrip mine. And after the banner year enjoyed in 2021 by Biglaw partners (and also associates), some of you might be looking for ways to spend your hard-earned cash.
So if you’d like to bid in the RBG library auction, head over to Bonhams, where you can review the lots, register for the auction, and start bidding. If you don’t want to go through the many pages of items by yourself—the auction features more than 1,000 volumes (although some of them are grouped into mini-collections)—you can read about highlights from the collection at CNBC and CNN. As noted by CNN’s Dan Berman, a book from the RBG library would be a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift for that special counsel in your life.
But you better act fast; the auction closes tomorrow, January 27, at 12 p.m. (EST). And you better be prepared to open your wallet—because Justice Ginsburg was a judicial rock star, and you’ll be bidding against hundreds if not thousands of other Article III groupies.
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