Rare Books Blog

June 15, 2009

Harold I. Boucher was a great friend and supporter of law libraries and legal history, and a personal friend of mine. I am sad to report that he passed away on May 27, 2009, in San Francisco, a month shy of his 103rd birthday. Mr. Boucher was a proud 1930 graduate of Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California-Berkeley, and a former partner of the leading San Francisco law firm of Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. I believe the title he was proudest of was Honorary Order of the British Empire, conferred on him by Her Majesty Elizabeth II. For details of Mr. Boucher’s life and career, see his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I first met Mr. Boucher in about 1997 when I was running the Rare Books & Special Collections department at the Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin. He phoned to get information about our copies of John Cowell’s law dictionaries. I was thrilled that someone was interested in our collection of law dictionaries, and I began sending him articles and other items of interest. We had many long phone conversations over the years, and I always looked forward to them.

He published his extensive research into Cowell:Harold I. Boucher, Suppression of Interpreter and Denouncement of Dr. Cowell: the King James Version (1997). One of his discoveries arose from his professional interest in the law of wills and estates. The first edition of Cowell’s Interpreter has no entries for “codicil” or “will,” which is surprising given that Cowell was a civilian. There is an entry for “testament,” but all it says is “See will.” So, it’s sending you down a blind alley! The identical error is repeated in the 1637 and 1658 editions, but in the 1672 edition, finally, there are full entries for both “testament” and “will.”

Mr. Boucher was an unabashed Anglophile, as his Honorary O.B.E. demonstrated. He was especially interested in the 17th century, and his sympathies lay squarely with the Cavaliers and not the Roundheads. As our relationship developed, he began donating a number of fine volumes from his personal collection: the first edition of Cowell’s Interpreter (1607) and the 1708 edition; Thomas Wentworth’s Office and Duty of Executors (1703); the 1629 edition of John Rastell’s Termes de la Ley; William Bohun’s Privilegia Londini: or, The rights, Liberties, Privileges, Laws, and Customs, of the City of London (1723); and Tragicum theatrum actorum (1649), with its account and engraving of Charles I’s execution.In addition, Mr. Boucher provided the funds for the library to acquire several other fine volumes, such as Richard Hooker’s Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1618), William Hakewill’s The Libertie of the Subject: Against the Pretended Power of Impositions (1641), The Trials of Charles the First, and of Some of the Regicides (1832), and Cowell’s Institutiones iuris Anglicani (1630).

I am grateful that Mr. Boucher chose to continue supporting acquisitions when I moved to the law library here at Yale. He generously supplied the funds for us to acquire Essex’s Innocency and Honour Vindicated, or, Murther, Subornation, Perjury, and Oppression Justly Charg’d on the Murtherers of that Noble Lord and True Patriot, Arthur (late) Earl of Essex by Laurence Braddon (1690), with a frontispiece mapping the murder scene in the Tower of London, and John Brydall’s Jura Coronae: His Majesties Royal Rights and Prerogatives Asserted Against Papal Usurpations, and All Other Anti-monarchical Attempts and Practices (1680).

I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Boucher face to face only once, in the rare book room of Wildy & Sons at Lincoln’s Inn Archway in London. Roy Heywood of Wildy was kind enough to host our meeting.

I’ll miss Harold Boucher, and I join his family & friends who mourn his passing and salute his life.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

Harold I. Boucher, Mike Widener, and Roy Heywood. Rare book room, Wildy & Sons, Lincoln’s Inn

Archway, London, June 2002.

Map of the murder scene, from Laurence Braddon, Essex’s Innocency and Honour

Vindicated, or, Murther, Subornation, Perjury, and Oppression Justly Charg’d on

the Murtherers of that Noble Lord and True Patriot, Arthur (late) Earl of Essex

(London, 1690), gift of the late Harold I. Boucher, Esq., to the Lillian Goldman Law

Library, Yale Law School.

 

 

 

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