Rare Books Blog

Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634)
November 29, 2014

Books from our Rare Book Collection once again are the stars in a video by my friend Mark Weiner. The latest video is titled “On Looking into Coke’s Reports” and the stars are the two most important works authored by the famous English jurist Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634): The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England (3rd ed.; London, 1633), commonly known as Coke on Littleton; and the first volume of Coke’s Reports, Les Reports de Edward Coke l’Attorney Generall le Roigne (London, 1601?). In supporting roles are some of the manuscript case reports that once belonged to Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676), another great English judge who authored the landmark treatise on English criminal law, Pleas of the Crown (1678).

In his Worlds of Law blog, Weiner writes that his video essay “is about rare books, jazz, the passage of time, and old movies … and the law reports of the great jurist Edward Coke.”

— MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Trial, Sentence, Confession and Execution of Joel Clough (1833)
November 22, 2014

New Yale Law Library exhibit…

Murder and Women in 19th-Century America:
Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library

Murder trials have long been a subject of sensational treatment in popular culture, and murder trials involving women, as the accused or the victims, especially so.

The latest exhibit from the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection features 19th-century illustrated pamphlets that document the public’s fascination with these trials.

The exhibit, “Murder and Women in 19th-Century America: Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library,” is curated by Emma Molina Widener (Department of World Languages, Southern Connecticut State University) and Michael Widener (Rare Book Librarian, Yale Law Library). It is on display through February 21, 2015, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT).

The exhibit can also be viewed in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.

Murder trial pamphlets are a rich source for studying popular culture and the history of the book, as well as legal history. Trials involving women are especially valuable for the study of 19th-century gender roles. With the exception of slavery trials, no genre of 19th-century legal literature is better served by research tools than murder trials.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Anthony Taussig
November 17, 2014

The “Celebration of the Anthony Taussig Acquisition” symposium on October 3 was a tremendous success. Thanks to all who attended and who helped organize the event.

Those who could not attend can view video recordings of the excellent program online. The speakers include:

Thanks to Dan Griffin (Manager of Instructional Technologies, Yale Law School) for producing the videos.

In addition, photos from the Taussig Celebration are available on Flickr.

The event was made possible through the generous support of the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School and the Beinecke Rare Book & Mnuscript Library.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Ann Jordan Laeuchli
October 21, 2014

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is at the same time delighted to report the publication of Ann Jordan Laeuchli’s Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone (Buffalo, NY: Published for Yale Law Library by William S. Hein & Co., 2015) and deeply saddened to report the death of its author.

Ann Laeuchli passed away on September 26, a mere four days after receiving her personal copies of her magnum opus, a work that she spent two decades preparing, the last few years with the able assistance and editorship of James E. Mooney. Ann served the Yale Law Library as its Associate Law Librarian from 1984 to 1993 during the directorship of the late, great Morris L. Cohen. It was Morris who encouraged Ann to undertake the Blackstone bibliography. She dedicated the book to Morris, “my director, my mentor, my friend.”

A Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone supercedes and surpasses the work that until now was the standard bibliography, Catherine Spicer Eller’s The William Blackstone Collection in the Yale Law Library: A Bibliographical Catalogue (New Haven: Published for the Yale Law Library by the Yale University Press, 1938). The 266 entries in Eller included only the Blackstone collection at Yale, while Laeuchli’s 672 entries cover all editions of Blackstone’s works published in the Roman alphabet, plus biographies, criticisms, catalogs, prospectuses, exhibitions, microtexts, and electronic resources.

Laeuchli’s bibliography is a fitting tribute to Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), whose Commentaries on the Laws of England (1st ed. 1765-1769) remains the single most influential book in the history of Anglo-American common law. As Morris Cohen wrote in his Foreword, “It is hard to imagine a legal figure whose works are more deserving of bibliographic coverage than William Blackstone.”

As the home of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Blackstoniana, the Yale Law Library supported Laeuchli’s project enthusiastically and is honored to sponsor its publication.

Following Ann Laeuchli’s death, her family returned to the library a very special book that was the foundation of Ann’s project: a copy of Eller’s 1938 Blackstone bibliography, inscribed on the cover “Personal copy of Catherine S. Eller Annotated”, interleaved and filled with Eller’s notes on Blackstone editions to add. We thank the Laeuchli family, and we join with them in mourning the death of a wonderful woman and celebrating her achievements.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

September 30, 2014

The Lillian Goldman Law Library
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

invite the Yale community to


Friday, October 3, 2014

10:15-11:00am: Welcome Reception (Room 122, Yale Law School)

11:00am-12:00pm: Building the Collection (Room 129, Yale Law School)

  • Welcome by Robert C. Post, Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Anthony Taissig, Barrister, Lincoln’s Inn
  • Sir John H. Baker, Downing Professor Emeritus of the Laws of England, University of Cambridge

1-15-2:15pm: Using the Collection (Room 129, Yale Law School)

  • Anders Winroth, Forst Family Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies, History, Yale University
  • Andrew Brown, PhD Candidate in English, Yale University

2:30-4:00pm: Guided Exhibition Tours (Yale Law Library and Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library).

  • Featuring highlights of the Taussig collections

4:15-5:00pm: Closing Remarks (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library)

  • John Langbein, Sterling Professor of Law and Legal History, Yale Law School

5:00-6:00pm: Reception (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library)

This event is made possible through the generous support of the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School and the Beinecke Rare Book & Mnuscript Library.

Colophon, Pontano's Singularia iuris 1471
September 28, 2014

With this final installment on our earliest printed books, we will have covered all the early centers of printing in Italy: Rome, Naples, and now Venice.

Printing came to Venice in 1469 with Johann of Speyer and his brother Wendelin. Johann died soon after, but Wendelin continued printing until 1477. Venice, the commercial hub of Europe, soon became the pre-eminent center for printing, responsible for close to 15 percent of all 15th-century printing.

Wendelin of Speyer (“Vindelinus de Spira”) printed mainly texts from the classics, literature, and philosophy. One of the first law books he published is the one we own: the first edition of Lodovico Pontano’s Singularia utriusque iuris (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1471). By the time his brief career was cut short by the plague, Lodovico Pontano (1409-1439) had taught law in the universities of Bologna, Florence, Rome, and Siena, served in the Roman Curia, and represented King Alfonso V of Aragon at the Council of Basel. “Singularia” are brief expositions of specific legal issues. Pontano’s Singularia iuris was the most popular of his works. It appeared in seventeen editions by 1500 and was included in fourteen compilations in the 16th century, the last in 1578.

As a typography geek, I love the type in this book (see below). It is one of the earliest uses of roman type, the style of type that is still the most prevalent in modern western books and periodicals. It is believed that Nicolas Jenson, the most important early type designer, designed this type for the Speyers.

— MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Further reading…

Albericus de Maletis, Tractatus seu apparatus de testibus (ca. 1471), colophon
September 26, 2014

Continuing with a review of the earliest printed books in the Yale Law Library, we move from Strassburg in 1471 to Naples, and a printer who learned his craft in Strassburg.

The printer’s name was Sixtus Reissinger, the first printer in Naples. He was part of a wave of Germans who introduced printing in Italy, and who also pioneered the use of roman typefaces. Reissinger partnered with Ulrich Han on the first book printed in Rome. By around 1470 Reissinger moved to Naples, where he was active until 1478. He returned to Germany for a time. From 1481 to 1484, the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue shows him printing again in Rome.

Law books formed a significant part of Riessinger’s output, mostly commentaries and treatises by authors such as Baldus and Bartolus. He also published classics including Cicero and Ovid, as well as religious works.

We own one of the rarer products of Riessinger’s press, the Tractatus seu apparatus de testibus by Albericus de Maletis (Naples: Sixtus Riessinger, ca. 1471), a brief treatise on witnesses in Roman law. It is the only copy of this edition in the United States; ISTC reports only two other copies in Germany and three in Italy.

— MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Further reading:


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