Rare Books Blog

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

Novae narrationes (1561)
January 3, 2017

The Rare Book Collection is honored to be the recipient of a bequest from the estate of Professor S. F. C. Milsom (1923-2016): the 1561 Richard Tottel edition of the Novae Narrationes. What makes the gift special is the stature of its donor, the book’s connection to Milsom’s career, and Milsom’s connection to the Yale Law School.

Professor Milsom (“Toby” to his friends and family) has been called the “dominant intellectual voice in English legal historiography” for the last fifty years by his colleague David Ibbetson. In a eulogy to Milsom, Sir John H. Baker said, “He was perhaps the last writer in legal academia whose works could be regarded as literature.” Milsom is best known for his groundbreaking book, Historical Foundations of the Common Law (2nd edition 1981).

Milsom’s first publication in legal history was Novae Narrationes (1963), Volume 80 in the Publications of the Selden Society series. The Novae narrationes was a collection of model oral pleadings (“narrationes” or “counts”) which initiated litigation, dating from the reign of Edward I in the late 13th century. As Milsom described them, “The count became the formal opening gambit in a game in which many moves were possible, and dexterity in making these moves became the preoccupation of the bar.” The 1561 printed edition of the Novae narrationes was the last of four printed editions. The volume’s immaculate condition suggests that Milsom did not use it in his original research for the Selden Society volume, but he knew its contents intimately and it undoubtedly held a special place in his affections.

Milsom’s academic career was primarily in his native England, at Oxford, the London School of Economics, and finally at his alma mater, the University of Cambridge, where he was Professor of Law from 1976 until his retirement in 1990. Milsom was in great demand as a visiting professor at U.S. law schools, and nowhere more than at the Yale Law School, where he was a visiting professor from 1968 to 1986. He recalled his time at Yale in an oral history interview: “It’s always fun, because the students have no idea at all about legal history, and don’t really want to know. But they … ask very difficult questions, and that’s good, makes one think.”

Lesley Dingle and Daniel Bates provide a thorough and lively account of Milsom’s career in the Eminent Scholars Archive of the Squire Law Library, University of Cambridge. It includes a bibliography of Milsom’s writings and videos of his oral history interviews.

The book itself is a fine copy. It boasts a Riviere binding and the bookplate of Thomas Jolley, whose enormous book collection was dispersed in a series of Sotheby’s auctions from 1843 to 1855. It consists of three works: (1) the Novae narrationes; (2) Articuli ad narrationes novas, a commentary on the first work, and (3) Diversite des courtes & lour iurisdictions, a guide to court procedure. All of these would have been useful works for a practicing lawyer, and the small format would have made the book handy in court. The table at the end of the second work has been annotated in an early hand; see the image below.

One final point of interest… The book was published by Richard Tottel, who held the patent for printing English law books from 1552 to his death in 1594. Among other things, Tottel is known for spelling his own last name 11 ways, including two different ways in this one book: “Tottell” on the title page and “Tottil” in the colophon.

The Law Library thanks Mr. Charles Perrin, the administrator of Professor Milsom’s estate, and Sir John Baker for their help in effecting Professor Milsom’s bequest.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

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