Rare Books Blog

Parte presa nell'eccellentiss. Senato, 1620, adì 9 aprile, in materia che si possi condennar alla Galea anco per manco tempo de disdotto mesi (Venice, 1620)
September 21, 2016

Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic:
Images of Authority from Renaissance Venice

The Venetian Republic, a prosperous and powerful state in Renaissance Europe, cultivated an image of stability and liberty. This image-making is on display in a new Yale Law Library exhibition, “Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic: Images of Authority from Renaissance Venice.”

The exhibition draws on the outstanding collection of Italian law books in the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, along with drawings and medals from the Yale University Art Gallery and reproductions from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The exhibition is on display through December 15, 2016. It was curated by Christopher Platts (History of Art, Yale University) and Michael Widener (Rare Book Librarian, Yale Law Library).

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Venice played a central role in the political and economic affairs of Europe, ruling an empire that extended through northern Italy, the Adriatic, and the eastern Mediterranean. By the year 1500, Venice could claim that it had been a sovereign republic for more than a millennium. Venice was so highly esteemed for its stable government, selfless leaders, and free citizens that it came to be known as “La Serenissima,” the Most Serene Republic.

The exhibition introduces the most significant offices and symbols of the Venetian Republic, and explains how laws were crafted, debated, publicized, and frequently broken. The protagonists are the doge and highest magistrates of Venice, the governors appointed to rule the Republic’s territories, the lawmakers in the Senate, and the lawbreakers, illustrated in finely executed drawings, prints, and numismatic portraits.

“Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic” is on view daily through December 15, 2016 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). Excerpts will also appear here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Actus potestatis supra civitatem Veronae Foederico Rhenerio ab Andrea Griti duce Venetiarum data (1530).

Drawing from Argumentum Institutionum imperialium (1519)
August 9, 2016

This drawing is found in one of our recent acquisitions. What makes it special is that the book is the very first law book printed by a woman: Argumentum Institutionum imperialium, an edition of Justinian’s Institutes printed in Paris in 1519 by Charlotte Guillard. A translation of the imprint at the bottom of the title page, shown below, reads: “Sold in Paris by the widow of the late Master Berthold Rembolt at the sign of the Golden Sun in the rue St. Jacques.” The book dealer who sold us the book, David Alexander Rueger of Antiquariat Inlibris, wrote me that the drawing “has no place in a legal textbook, and is ever-so-tempting to relate to the printer herself.”

The Argumentum Institutionum imperialium is a sophisticated publication, printed in red and black with notes by the legal scholar Jean Chappuis. An acrostic on the title page spells out the book’s title, INSTITUTIONES.

In early modern craft guilds such as printing, it was not unusual for widows to take over the businesses of their late husbands. Charlotte Guillard was not the first woman printer, but she is the consensus choice as the first woman printer of importance. She married Rembolt in 1502 and took over the business upon his death in 1518. The year after publishing the Institutes, Guillard married another prominent Paris printer, Claude Chevallon, a union that was perhaps as much a business merger as a domestic partnership. When Chevallon died in 1537, Madame Guillard once again took over the business. This time she appeared by name in the imprint, not simply as Chevallon’s widow. In the last two decades of her life, she published 158 religous, legal, and scientific works, including Church Fathers in the original Greek.

Law was one of Madame Guillard’s specialties, including canon law and several multivolume editions of the Corpus Juris Civilis edited by the humanist Gregor Haloander. Below is one example from our collection, Digestorum seu Pandectarum (Paris, 1552), volume 3 of 4. “Printed by Charlotte Guillard, widow of Claude Chevallon, & Guillaume Desboys, under the Golden Sun in the rue St. Jacques.”

Charlotte Guillard was not just a figurehead. Business records and statements by contemporaries prove that she was a highly respected publisher of scholarly works in a competitive Paris market. For a full account of her career, see Beatrice Beech, “Charlotte Guillard: A Sixteenth-Century Business Woman,” Renaissance Quarterly 36:3 (Autumn, 1983), 345-367. For more on women as publishers of legal literature, see our recent exhibition, “Evidence of Women: Women as Printers, Donors, and Owners of Law Texts,” curated by our 2015 Rare Book Fellow Anna Franz.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Veridica descrizione, e ragguaglio distinto della Promulgazione delle colpe, e dell'abjura solenne, e della condanna di galera fulminata dal Santo Tribunale dell'Inquisizione di Brescia, contro Giuseppe Beccarelli (1710)
July 28, 2016

One of my favorite acquisitions at this spring’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair was an Italian broadside with an enormous woodcut of an Inquisition trial. The trial took place in Brescia in 1710. The defendant was a priest, Giuseppe Beccarelli, accused of promoting the heretical doctrine of Quietism, as well as sodomy. At the end of the trial he renounced a long list of principles, and spent the last six years of his life in prison. Ours may be the only surviving copy; no other copies are listed in WorldCat or other union catalogs.

Britannica Online describes Quietism as “A doctrine of Christian spirituality that, in general, holds that perfection consists in passivity (quiet) of the soul, in the suppression of human effort so that divine action may have full play.” The main proponent of Quietism was a Spanish priest active in Rome, Miguel de Molinos, whose teachings were condemned in 1687.

An alphabetic key beneath the woodcut identifies all the main participants, including the presiding officer, Cardinal Gianalberto Badoaro, the accused (“Il Beccarello”), the inquisitors, clergy, local officials, nobles, and finally, at the extreme edges, the general public (“Popolo”).

A detailed description of Beccarelli’s trial can be found in The Inquisitor in the Hat Shop: Inquisition, Forbidden Books, and Unbelief in Early Modern Venice by Federico Barbierato (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012).

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Veridica descrizione, e ragguaglio distinto della Promulgazione delle colpe, e dell’abjura solenne, e della condanna di galera fulminata dal Santo Tribunale dell’Inquisizione di Brescia, contro Giuseppe Beccarelli da Vrago d’Olio, li 13. settembre 1710 (Brescia: Gio. Maria Rizzardi, 1710); 52 x 37 cm.

May 10, 2016

Putting Together a Book Exhibit,” a video teaser for our 2017 exhibition in New York City, has won the Best Video prize in the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) “Day in the Life” contest. The annual competition recognizes photos and videos that capture the spirit of law librarianship.

The video was produced by my colleague and exhibition co-curator Mark Weiner (Yale Law School Class of 2000). It shows us preparing a section of our exhibition, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection.” The exhibition is scheduled to run September 17-November 18, 2017, at the Grolier Club in New York City. The exhibition will include over 150 volumes from our collection of illustrated law books.

Putting Together a Book Exhibit” is only the latest in a series of videos on law books that Mark has produced which feature books from our Rare Book Collection. You can see the rest at Mark’s Worlds of Law website. They include “Blackstone Goes Hollywood,” “On Looking into Coke’s Reports,” “The Sound of One Book Clapping,” “The Beauty of the Code,” “A Philosophical Approach to Judicial Bobbleheads,” and my personal favorite, “Water, Paper, Law.”

Thanks to all my AALL colleagues who voted for our entry, and a special thanks to Mark Weiner, whose artistry and skills were the winning combination. Mark is planning a much bigger video production for the exhibit itself.

You can see all the “Day in the Life” winners on the AALL website, and view the video below.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

 

 

 

Tom Mooney fundraising stamps
March 19, 2016

In conjunction with its ongoing exhibition, “Free Tom Mooney! The Yale Law Library’s Tom Mooney Collection,” the Law Library is sponsoring a talk by exhibition co-curator Lorne Bair, owner of Lorne Bair Rare Books.

Bair will deliver his talk, “A Martyr to the Cause: The Mooney Trial, the Communist Party, and the Pleasures of Propaganda,” at noon on Thursday, March 24, in Room 129 of the Sterling Law Building, Yale University. The public is invited, and a light lunch will be served.

The exhibition is co-curated by Lorne Bair, Hélène Golay (also of Lorne Bair Rare Books), and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law Library. A hundred years ago, San Francisco authorities framed the radical labor organizer Tom Mooney for murder following a bombing. Drawing on the Law Library’s extensive collection, the exhibition tells the story of Mooney’s 22-year campaign for exoneration that made him an international celebrity.

The exhibition is on display through May 27 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library. A catalogue of the exhibit is available online.

Lorne Bair has been an antiquarian bookseller for the past two decades. His firm, Lorne Bair Rare Books, is based in Winchester, Virginia, and specializes in radical history and the literature of American social movements. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America and is co-director of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, where he has been on the faculty since 2010.

For more information, contact Mike Widener at (203) 432-4494, email <mike.widener@yale.edu>.

Sir William Blackstone
March 15, 2016

After an eight-month voyage to England and Australia, the Law Library’s exhibition, “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” is on its way home. Its last stop was at the Sir John Salmond Law Library, University of Adelaide, academic home of my co-curator Professor Wilfrid Prest.

The photo below shows Professor Prest, in the plaid shirt at far right, conducting a tour of the exhibition on February 25 for members of Friends of the Barr Smith Library. This is one of several tours he conducted. The exhibition was also a featured attraction at the 34th Annual Conference of the Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society.

The exhibition had its debut here at the Lillian Goldman Law Library in the spring of 2015. It then travelled to the Middle Temple in London (Blackstone’s Inn of Court), September-November 2015. The exhibition was a marvelous opportunity to show off our world-class William Blackstone Collection, and to mark the 250th anniversary of the most influential book in the history of Anglo-American law.

I want to thank Wilfrid Prest for the opportunity to collaborate with him. A very special thanks goes to my colleagues Renae Satterley at the Middle Temple Library and Peter Jacobs at the Sir John Salmond Law Library, University of Adelaide, for making the “Blackstone World Tour” possible.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Russian Blackstone 1781
February 16, 2016

The Rare Book Collection’s Slavic holdings are now described in “Slavic, East European and Central Asian Libguide: Law Library”, courtesy of the Yale University Library Slavic & East European Collection. The guide includes a downloadable list of our Slavic law books, which include 24 Russian titles, seven Czech, five Hungarian, four Polish, and one Slovenian. Chief among these is the 232-volume Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii (Complete Collected Laws of the Russian Empire) (1839-1916). Our most recent Slavic acquisition is volume 2 of the 3-volume Russian translation of Blackstone’s Commentaries (1780-1782), pictured here.

A big thanks to my colleague Agnieszka Rec, PhD candidate in Yale’s Department of History, for compiling and publishing this guide.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian
 

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