Thomas Erskine’s Inkstand

Inkstand from aboveJust one of the many interesting items held in Tarlton Law Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections is an inkstand given to the noted British lawyer Thomas Erskine (1750-1823) by Felix McCarthy in appreciation of Erksine’s rigorous defense of McCarthy. Renowned for his eloquence and legal argument, Erskine defended a number of high-profile radicals in the late 18th century, including Thomas Paine, in absentia, for seditious libel after the publication of Rights of Man and Thomas Hardy, John Horne Tooke, and John Thelwall in the 1794 Treason Trials.

Erskine represented McCarthy in 1802 after McCarthy was jailed in Fleet Prison for defaulting on a debt of £50 (roughly equivalent to £3,480, or $5,566).

The sterling silver inkstand was given to Tarlton Law Library in 2000 by Edward H. Forgotson, Class of 1960. For more about the inkstand and details on the case for which Erskine received this gift, Billet v. McCarthy, visit or come to the Tarlton Law Library’s Special Collections Department.

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