Rare Books Blog

September 11, 2017

Two new Yale Law Library exhibits…

Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection

Around the World with Law’s Picture Books

Most people would not look for illustrations in law books. However, two exhibitions from the Yale Law Library challenge the stereotype of legal literature as a dreary expanse of dry text.

“Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” opening September 13 at the Grolier Club in New York City, features 140 books and manuscripts containing a surprising and beguiling range of images that symbolize, describe, teach, argue, or criticize the law. It is curated by Michael Widener, the Law Library’s rare book librarian, and Mark S. Weiner, a legal historian, filmmaker, and professor on leave from Rutgers Law School, who blogs at WorldsOfLaw.com.

A companion exhibition, “Around the World with Law’s Picture Books,” is at the Yale Law Library in New Haven, Connecticut, through December 15, and showcases illustrated law books from fifteen countries on six continents in ten different languages. It is curated by Michael Widener and Emma Molina Widener.

The two exhibitions draw on a unique collection of over a thousand volumes assembled in the past decade by Michael Widener, the Yale Law Library’s rare book librarian. They were originally published for lawyers, law students, lay readers, and even children. Often they were tools in the workshops of legal practice. “These images provide insight into ideas about the nature of law and justice, and also about the image of the law and the legal profession, in the eyes of the profession itself and the general public,” writes Widener. Today they will surprise and delight both book lovers and the legal community.

Accompanying the Grolier Club exhibition are five short videos created by Weiner through his production company Hidden Cabinet Films:

The Grolier Club exhibition was made possible through the support of the Charles J. Tanenbaum Fund, Yale Law School, and a generous gift from the Pine Tree Foundation. The videos were funded with a generous gift from John Robinson Block.

A 220-page, full-color catalogue of “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection” is available from Talbot Publishing, and can be ordered via this link. It includes essays by Widener, Weiner, Jolande Goldberg (Law Library of Congress), and Erin Blake (Folger Shakespeare Library).

“Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection” is on display September 13 - November 18 in the Grolier Club’s main gallery at 47 East 60th Street in New York City. The gallery is open 10am to 5pm Monday - Saturday except holidays, and admission is free. Widener and Weiner will be conducting exhibition tours on September 21, October 5, and November 2, 1-2pm.

“Around the World with Law’s Picture Books” is on view through December 15 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School (Level L2, Sterling Law Building, 127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). It is open to the public 10am-6pm daily except holidays.

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

August 16, 2017

Final preparations are underway for our major exhibition, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” curated by myself and Mark Weiner (Yale Law Class of 2000). It will display 140 books, drawn exclusively from the Yale Law Library’s collections, at the Grolier Club in New York City. While the exhibition won’t open until September 13 - November 18, the full-color, 220-page catalogue of the exhibition is available now. Here is the announcement from Talbot Publishing, the publishing arm of Lawbook Exchange:

“Illustrated law books” may seem like an oxymoron. After all, law is conceptual, analytic, and so very wordy! Yet for the past decade, over a thousand illustrated law books have been assembled in the Yale Law Library – spanning eight centuries and four continents. Law’s Picture Books began as a major exhibition of that collection at the Grolier Club in New York City, curated by Rare Book Librarian Michael Widener and legal historian Mark S. Weiner. In challenging the stereotype of legal literature as a dreary expanse of dry text, this book will surprise and delight both bibliophiles and members of the legal community.

This handsome full-color book is enhanced by the essays “Collecting Yale Law Library’s Picture Books,” (Michael Widener), “Reflections on an Exhibition,” (Mark S. Weiner), “Ars Memoria in Early Law: Looking Beneath the Picture,” (Jolande E. Goldberg, Law Library of Congress), and “Law’s Picture Books and the History of Book Illustration,” (Erin C. Blake, Folger Shakespeare Library).

Details on purchasing a copy are available on the Talbot Publishing website. My thanks to Greg Talbot, president of Lawbook Exchange, and Valerie Horowitz, managing editor, for making this publication possible. Thanks also to my co-curator and co-author, Mark Weiner, as well as to Jolande Goldberg and Erin Blake for their excellent essays.

In addition, a companion exhibition, “Around the World With Law’s Picture Books,” will be on display in the Yale Law Library September 1 - December 15, curated by myself and my wife, Emma Molina Widener. It will showcase the geographic scope of our illustrated law book collection, in contrast to the functional approach in the Grolier Club exhibition.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

August 8, 2017

Preparations for our upcoming exhibition, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” together with two overseas trips, have kept me from the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog for a while.

“Law’s Picture Books,” curated by me and Mark S. Weiner, opens on September 13 at the Grolier Club in New York City, and will be on display through November 18. It will feature 140 illustrated law books from our Rare Book Collection.

Additional details are coming, including a schedule of programming associated with the exhibition. I gave a preview of the exhibition when I delivered the 2017 Rare Books Lecture at the University of Melbourne Law School on May 18. The lecture is now available in a video online.

A special thanks to Carole Hinchcliff, Law Librarian at the University of Melbourne, for the honor of the invitation and the splendid hospitality. It was one of the highlights of my career.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Constitución política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (1917)
April 3, 2017

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The ninth anniversary of the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog is a fitting opportunity to mark a much more momentous anniversary, the centennial of the Mexican Constitution of 1917. Although amended a few hundred times, this constitution is still in effect today. It is among the most significant legacies of the Mexican Revolution.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 remains one of the most progressive constitutional and legislative documents of the 20th century. It created a minimum wage, the right to strike, and an eight-hour work day decades before the United States adopted similar laws. It also implemented a strict separation of church and state, land reforms, and term limits for the president and legislators.

The Rare Book Collection recently acquired a superb collection of over 60 titles relating to the Mexican Constitution of 1917. Included are several early printings, such as this one published in San Antonio, Texas, a city that served as a refuge for Mexican political exiles during the revolution.

The constitution was produced by a convention convened by Venustiano Carranza, the victorious leader of the revolutionary forces. Several of the titles in the collection document the debates which produced the constitution, such as this one:

Following the adoption of the Constitution of 1917, there was a flurry of constitution-making in Mexican states, such as the constitution of Yucatán.

For fuller accounts of the Mexican Constitution of 1917, see:

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian
 

Woof Moo Grr
February 1, 2017

A charming exhibit of animals pictured in law books opens February 1, courtesy of the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection. Titled “Woof, Moo & Grr: A Carnival of Animals in Law Books,” the exhibit is narrated from the perspective of the animals themselves and is aimed at animal lovers of all ages.

Twenty books from around the world will be on display, more than half of them printed before the nineteenth century and the earliest published in 1529. They feature illustrations of a wide variety of animals that visitors may be surprised to find in the pages of serious legal literature.

The exhibition is curated by Mark S. Weiner, a writer, filmmaker, and professor on leave from Rutgers Law School. Weiner holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

“Law is a serious business,” said Weiner, “which is why it’s important to find a chance to laugh. The exhibit looks at the different roles that animals play in legal literature, and it quietly explores the relation between law and the imagination.”

“Woof, Moo & Grr” is on display from February 1 through May 31, 2017, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, at 127 Wall Street in New Haven. It is open to the general public 10am-6pm, seven days a week, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

The images and text from the exhibit are also available online, in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.

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

Morris Cohen
January 27, 2017

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Ninth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting, scheduled for July 15-18, 2017, in Austin, Texas.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: http://www.aallnet.org/sections/lhrb/awards. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 17, 2017 (EDT).

Der Reichs-Stadt Kaufbeuren Gerichts-Ordnung
January 19, 2017

One of our outstanding acquisitions of 2016 was a lovely calligraphic manuscript with a hand-painted image of Lady Justice. The image was the unanimous choice to adorn the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s 2016-2017 holiday card.

The manuscript is titled Der Reichs-Stadt Kaufbeuren Gerichts-Ordnung. It is a comprehensive guide to court procedure in the imperial city of Kaufbeuren in Bavaria, dated 1756 and authored by a local judge (“Gerichts Assessor”), Georg Friedrich Heinzelmann.

The image depicts a blindfolded Lady Justice with her left hand resting on the coat of arms of Kaufbeuren. The identification coat of arms in the lower right of the image had me and some of my colleagues stumped. One book dealer friend speculated that it might have some connection with St. Francis of Assisi, because of the figure with a bird in his hand. Not being familiar with this type of research, I made a number of Google image searches based on guesses, none of which uncovered an answer.

However, one of the recipients of our holiday card has come to the rescue. My friend Michael Laird, a rare book dealer in Lockhart, Texas, identified the arms as those of the author’s family, Heinzelmann, and helpfully provided the source as proof: Neubecker, Grosses Wappen-Bilder-Lexikon, p. 134. Thank you, Michael!

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

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