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Henry Bartholomew Cox Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS410

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

Comprising five boxes, 3.25 linear feet of material, the Henry Bartholomew Cox Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, and printed material related to the career of Henry Bartholomew Cox (1937-2007). An expert document and manuscript collector, as well as a lawyer and historian, Cox was a key participant in efforts among historians and archivists to protect rare, historic papers and manuscripts while respecting the rights of, and markets for, private manuscript collectors. Much of his most significant work in this area was devoted to the issue of "replevin," an action in civil law in which private possessions could be recovered by their rightful owners; in this case, "replevin" refers to actions taken to claim rare papers.

Materials of interest among these papers include drafts and printed versions of articles written by Cox; correspondence with fellow document and manuscript collectors; correspondence with attorneys involved in replevin cases; and legal documents associated with replevin cases at the local, state, and federal levels. Most of the materials in the Cox Papers date from 1975 to 2000 and includes correspondence to Cox from document collectors involved in replevin cases or from members of organizations, like the Manuscript Society, that wanted assurances that government agencies' use of replevin would not threaten private collections or markets for rare and historic documents or manuscripts. Other materials include correspondence shared with Cox by others.

Some correspondents include Manuscript Society officials P. William Filby, Richard Maass, and Barbara S. McCrimmon; document or manuscript collectors and sellers B.C. West, Jr., Mary A. Benjamin, Joseph Rubinfine, and Stanley Klos; politicians such as U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield and U.S. Rep. L. Richardson Preyer; and historian Julian P. Boyd. A significant amount of material relates to U.S. court cases from throughout the 20th Century. A small amount of material relates to English laws and government practices toward document collection and storage between the 14th and 18th centuries. Offering an in-depth look of the challenge replevin issues posed in the late 20th Century to librarians, archivists, historians, and rare document collectors, the Henry Bartholomew Cox Papers represent a significant addition to the collection of the Georgetown University Library, Booth Family Center for Special Collections. The Booth Family Center for Special Collections also houses three rare books formerly owned by Henry Bartholomew Cox and donated by Ms. Hannah Cox:

- "A Methodical Treatise of Replevins, Distresses, Avowries ..." ([London]: In the Savoy: printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, 1739).

- "Report of the Lord's Committees, Appointed by the House of Lords to View and Consider the Publick Records (London: John Basket, 1719).

- "Reports from the Select Committee, Appointed to Inquire into the State of Public Records of the Kingdom (House of Commons, July 4, 1800).

The Henry Bartholomew Cox Papers are divided into five series, as follows:

SERIES 1 -- KLOS CASE. This series contains articles, correspondence, legal briefs, and documents related to a replevin case between documents collector Stanley Klos and the state of Maine. At issue in the case was the ownership of a broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence ordered printed in Salem, Massachusetts on July 17, 1776 and recovered in 1999 in the town of North Yarmouth, Maine. All materials in this series are dated between 1999 and 2000.

SERIES 2 -- N.C. V. WEST. This series contains notes, correspondence, legal filings, and articles concerning a replevin case between historic document collector B.C. West, Jr., and the state of North Carolina. The case, which was decided by the state Supreme Court in 1977, involved the question of the rightful owner of two colonial indictments signed by William Hooper, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The bulk of the materials in this series are dated between 1975 and 1977.

SERIES 3 -- GENERAL REPLEVIN. This series contains reports, articles, and correspondence to and from Cox on replevin issues. Issues discussed in this series include activities by the Manuscript Society and other organizations to reach agreement with archivists on document ownership; negotiations with Congress on a bill that would become the Presidential Records Act of 1978; and assorted replevin actions against private collectors. Most of the materials in this series are dated between 1977 and 1994.

SERIES 4 -- REPLEVIN COMMITTEE. This series includes correspondence, notes, and articles connected with the Manuscript Society's Replevin Committee. The bulk of the materials in this series are dated between 1995 and 2001. The committee was charged with monitoring replevin actions and alerting replevin actions and alerting its members via newsletter.

SERIES 5 -- PRINTED MATERIALS. This series includes notes, correspondence, reviews of case law, and articles used by Henry Bartholomew Cox in preparing his writings. The bulk of the materials are dated between the 1960s and 2000, with a portion spanning the 14th through the 19th centuries. The last four folders in this series (folders 218-221) contain multiple printed and handwritten items and are out of chronological order.


  • 1938 - 2007
  • Majority of material found within 1975 - 2000

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Henry Bartholomew Cox (1937-2007), a lawyer, historian, and advocate for collectors of manuscripts and historical documents, was born on October 2, 1937, in Washington, D.C. He was the son of Paul Vernon and Elizabeth (Bartholomew) Cox. After attending the private Landon School in Bethesda, Md., Henry Bartholomew Cox attended Princeton University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1959. Returning to Washington, Cox earned a master's degree in 1962 and a doctorate in 1967, both in history, from the George Washington University. Cox would later receive a law degree from George Washington University in 1976.

Cox began his professional career at George Washington University, where he served as a history instructor from 1964 to 1966; during this time, he was also executive director of the American Bar Association's study of war powers in American history. From 1966 to 1969, he was an historian at the U.S. Department of State, producing there a study of protocol that was considered the standard more than four decades after its publication. Cox left the State Department in 1969 to become assistant executive director of the National Historical Publications Commission, part of the National Archives (now the National Historical Publications and Records Commission). In 1971, he became the chief of the National Archives' Bicentennial Center, where he stayed until 1974.

Cox married Hannah Moberley Soaper Caffery on June 6, 1973. They had no children.

In 1976, the year he received his law degree, Cox authored his first book, "War, Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Power, 1829-1901," which was written for the American Bar Association. His second book, "War, Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Power, Vol. II," was published in 1984. Henry Bartholomew Cox practiced trademark and copyright law, and had a private practice in Maryland from 1978-1979. Cox also wrote articles and reviews on issues including constitutional and copyright law, as well as on "replevin," a civil law procedure by which lost materials are returned to their rightful owners.

But Cox devoted much of his work to appraising autographs and manuscripts, building a reputation as a highly knowledgeable source on historical documents. His collections originally included manuscripts of signers of the Declaration of Independence but grew to include presidential memorabilia, artifacts of inventors, politicians, and musicians, and even antique cars. In 1984, Cox aided the FBI in a "sting" operation that recovered documents generated by inventor Thomas A. Edison and valued at more than $250,000. Cox recognized a sketch bought by a fellow document dealer as part of a set of documents that had been stolen from the Edison historical site in New Jersey in 1976. Phillip Petersen, a former language professor, was arrested by the FBI and later pleaded guilty to stealing dozens of binders containing documents created by Edison and related to the development of the phonograph. Cox received a distinguished service award from the U.S. Department of the Interior for his efforts.

Cox died on April 8, 2007, at the age of 69 at his home in Fort Washington, Prince George's County, Maryland. As an historian, lawyer, document collector, and advocate for manuscript collectors, Cox made significant contributions in attempting to strike a balance between the rights of collectors and archivists in the collection, ownership, and use of historical documents.


3.25 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Acquisition Information

Status: Open. Provenance: Gift of Ms. Hannah Cox, July 17, 2008. Processed by James C. Benton, August 2009.

Henry Bartholomew Cox Papers
James C. Benton. Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
2009 August
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057