This little book started life as a leather covered textbook that was written by a man named Walter S. Cox. He led an interesting life… he was one of several lawyers who defended the group of people who were accused of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

After he became a judge and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, he presided over the trial of the man who assassinated President James Garfield. Later he became a professor in the Law Department of Columbia University and the first Dean of Columbia Law School. He wrote this book, called Questions for the Use of Students in the Junior Law Class of Columbia University, which served as a textbook for law students. Versions of this book came out every few years. This one is dated 1881. It is set up like a study guide, with a summary of various legal principles, including questions and blank pages for the law student’s answers and notes. My law student was very diligent. This book is packed full of his responses and essays written in the most beautiful handwriting… it’s all very neat, very legible, and in the very distinctive writing style of that time period.

I almost didn’t even look through this one… after all, I’m not a law student and I don’t really need an 1881 study guide for the junior law class of Columbia University. :o) But apparently this particular law student finished the course with blank pages still left in his textbook, and someone else decided to use these pages for a journal. The second batch of writing is obviously feminine and looks equally old, very spidery and precise… the law student’s wife, perhaps? Her name was Margaret Rose, and her journal entries are fascinating, especially the more personal comments that gave me a glimpse into what her life was like all those many years ago.

The last entry was dated April 26 and was written eight days after the birth of her third child. This entry was difficult to read because it was written in the margins of the last several pages of the textbook… obviously by that point all the blank pages had been filled.

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To answer your question–yes–I do love old books. I like to be reading along and come across notes in the margins and underlined passages and occasionally notes or slips of paper tucked inside. I’ve never come across a journal in an old book though–how cool is that?


Hi Shirley,

I LOVE old books like that and finding a journal inside it is like a treasure inside a treasure!



Me too, I love old books. One of my favorite things to do is to spend the afternoon in the local used bookstore. Even just looking through them and handling them is a pleasure for me.


count me too my happyest times are when i have a day to search through the old bookstore my favorites are the books that someone has made notes in i wish i could find as great finds like this one mel


I love old books,too. Some of my favorite are old journals written by housewives who jot down recipes or reminders to buy yard goods or staples like flour or coffee and tea.
But my very best favorites are the books that my parents left me where they wrote in margins or made notes. Bird books, cook books, history books with my parent’s writing are very special.

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Jo, I know just what you mean. I have enjoyed so much reading the notes that were written in some of the old books I have. I wish everyone would write in their books… I think it adds so much character and “value”. You should see my recipe books!