Rare Books Blog

September 24, 2011

Dumont, Jean. Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (8 vols.; Amsterdam: P. Brunel [etc.], 1726-31), vol 1. Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Jean Dumont’s Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens (The Universal Diplomacy of the Laws of Men) is a compilation of European treaties beginning in the time of Charlemagne in the tenth century. The engraved frontispiece, entitled “Traitez de Paix” (Peace Treaties), is by Bernard Picart (1673-1733), who was considered a “magnificent engraver.” In the background, the Virtues Justice and Peace (both clear-eyed half-naked women) embrace. They are seated on a pedestal and surrounded by other Virtues, all labeled and including Fortitude, Wisdom, Natural Law, and Truth.

The French text below the engraving explains that the two male figures at the center are kings “swearing an alliance” that is confirmed through a handshake above a chalice-shaped urn in which a fire burns. Each of the men bears a palm, symbolizing peace, and ministers and counselors surround each. At the bottom, War is enchaining Ambition, Discord, Fraud, and Impiety. At the top of the frame, the eye of Providence looks down from thundering clouds from which harpies emerge.

The picture of two persons clasping hands over a fire occurs often in diplomatic imagery of this era and signifies “bona fides” (good faith) or “pacta sunt servanda” (promises must be kept). The depiction’s iconic weight resulted in variations being used in seventeenth-century wedding poems, with husband and wife clasping hands to symbolize their union.

A simplified version of the Picart image made its way into the logo of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established in 1907 at the Hague. A facsimile of the logo used by the Court until 2007 shows the artistic borrowing.

 

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

September 24, 2011

This glimpse at the imagery of Justice makes plain the richness of its history and signification. Didactic emblems addressed fears of corruption, of irrational authority, and an absence of even-handedness. Blindfolds, double-headed Justices, and handless judges captured some of these stresses.

Yet recall that Justice iconography was once far more varied. Within a century after Ripa, his seven Justices had been distilled into one stock figure identified by scales and sword. And Ripa’s mention of a blindfold as a marker of the obligation that Justice not be “tempted away from using reason” came to be an expected accoutrement.

The images in this exhibit are a testament to the normative enterprise that built public courts of law and sought to elaborate the import and obligations of law. The movement away from public adjudication is a problem for democracies because adjudication has important contributions to make to democracy. Adjudication is itself a democratic process, which reconfigures power as it obliges disputants and judges to treat each other as equals. The scales, the attribute of Justice with the longest history (dating back to Babylonia and Egypt), evoke the evenhandedness to which judges aspire today.

Our excursion into Justice iconography aims to appreciate but not to romanticize the roots of the didactic practices surrounding adjudication. While old images remain legible, courts in today’s democracies are new inventions – benefits of political and social movements insistent on equality, dignity, and fairness for all. But these aspirations have yet to be realized, just as a visual vocabulary to match those ideas remains under-developed. Whether political will exists to support both the infrastructure of courts and access for all those now eligible to use courts is in question, and hence, the ability of courts to provide active sites of public exchange before independent judges cannot be taken for granted.

Image: Decorative headpiece from Johann Stephan Pütter, Patriotische Abbildung des heutigen Zustandes beyler höchsten Reichsgerichte (Frankfurt & Leipzig, 1756). Lillian Goldman Law Library (German Law Collection of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York).

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 24, 2011

Thanks to the following individuals and institutions for their assistance in preparing this exhibit:

Kathryn James
Curator for Early Modern Books and Manuscripts,
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Nicholas Salazar
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Yale University

Shana Jackson
Lillian Goldman Law Library

Drew Adan
Lillian Goldman Law Library

Image:Frontispiece from Maximae juris celebriores, deductae ex jure canonico, civili, glossa (Tyrnaviae: Typis Academicis, S. Jesu, 1742). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

September 24, 2011

    • Judith Resnik & Dennis Curtis, Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). “By mapping the remarkable run of the icon of Justice, a woman with scales and sword, and by tracing the development of public spaces dedicated to justice—courthouses—the authors explore the evolution of adjudication into its modern form as well as the intimate relationship between the courts and democracy.” In addition, the Representing Justice page, in the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Document Collection Center,  brings together image collections, articles, and videos relating to the book.
       
    • Fondo Antico - Immagini della Giustizia, a website prepared by the library of the Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, is a well organized and thorough examination of how the image of Justice is employed in early printed books. It includes a lengthy bibliography.
       
    • The Digital Collections page of the Rechtshistorie website includes annotated lists of useful links under the headings “Databases for legal iconography” and “Thematic image collections”.
       
    • Rechtshistorie’s editor, Otto Vervaart, also writes a companion blog, Rechtsgeschiedenis. He has written several thoughtful and informative posts on the topic of legal iconography, dealing with their importance for legal history and the challenges in locating online resources. See, for example, “The face of justice” (Dec. 19, 2010) and click the Legal iconography tag to see the others.
       
    • Justitia: Iconography of Justice is a Flickr gallery that as of September 2011 contained 133 images of Justice taken from volumes in the Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library. See also the related gallery, Justitia - headpieces. Headpieces are ornaments used as decoration at the head of a chapter or division of a book.

      “The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

      September 24, 2011

      The image of Justice, a remnant of the Renaissance, has had a remarkable run as a political icon. We can all “read” Justice because we have been taught to do so by political leaders of every stripe. Courthouse designers, artists, and cartoonists remain confident that a woman with scales and sword will be recognized as Justice, and not as a misplaced Roman deity or a warrior princess.

      This exhibit, drawn from the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms (Yale University Press, 2011) by Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis, traces the roots of Justice iconography in books published in Europe between 1497 and 1788. Through these prints, we account for Justice’s visual accessibility, making her image a part of today’s popular knowledge when other European images of Virtues (and Vices), that were once as familiar as Justice, are lost to contemporary view.

      The Justices depicted in Renaissance Europe had a diverse set of attributes – cornucopias, fasces (or lictor rods), orbs and globes, books and tablets, and an odd lot of animals and birds, including dogs, snakes, ostriches, and cranes. Over time, as this exhibit documents, the depiction of Justice stabilized around a woman with scales and sword.

      As this exhibit also details, pictorial representations aimed to denote something of the complex relationship between judgment, sight, knowledge, and wisdom. In the 1400s and 1500s, a blindfold on Justice signified her disability; today the blindfold is commonly valorized as both a sign of law’s particular obligation to reason within confined parameters and of justice’s impartiality and disinterest.

       

      Image: Cesare Ripa, Iconologie (Paris: Mathieu Guillemot, 1644), Lillian Goldman Law Library.

       

      “The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

       

      September 24, 2011

      The first image, known as “The Fool Blindfolding Justice” from Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools, comes from the 1497 Basel edition and is sometimes attributed to Albrecht Dürer. The 1509 London edition offers a close copy. The woodcut was one of a hundred illustrations for this popular book, subsequently printed in many languages.

      The scene is one of the earliest known to show a Justice with covered eyes. The deployment is derisive, evident not only from the fool but from the chapter that the illustration accompanied, which was entitled “Quarreling and Going to Court.” Brant, a noted lawyer and law professor, prefaced the book with a warning against “folly, blindness, error, and stupidity of all stations and kinds of men.” The 1572 version is all the more insistently negative; in this rendition, the fool has pushed Justice off her throne as he covers her eyes.

      Brant, Sebastian. Stultifera navis (Basel: Johann Bergmann, de Olpe, 1497). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

      Brant, Sebastian. This present boke named the shyp of folys of the worlde (London: Richard Pynson, 1509). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

      Brant, Sebastian. Stultifera navis mortalium (Basel: Sebastian Henricpetri, 1572). Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

       

      “The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

       

      September 24, 2011

      “The Fool Blindfolding Justice” was not the only image of that era deploying a blindfold as a warning against judicial error, as can be seen from the 1508 and 1580 editions of an illustrated volume, Die Bambergische Halsgerichtsordnung. The volume, setting forth the criminal law and municipal ordinances of the city of Bamberg, included some twenty woodcuts.

      In the woodcut called “The Tribunal of Fools,” a presiding judge (marked by his rod of office, the collar of his robe, and his place of honor on the throne) sits with his four colleagues. All are blindfolded and wear jesters’ caps. The legend on the scroll above their heads reads: “Out of bad habit these blind fools spend their lives passing judgments contrary to what is right.” Once again blindness is equated with error. Blindfolds could also be found on other readily recognized Renaissance icons – Synagoga, representing the Old Testament, was bent and blindfolded (blind to the “light” of Christianity), while Ecclesia, standing ramrod straight and clear-eyed, embodied the New Testament. Similarly, Fortuna, and Eros were also shown blindfolded, exemplifying that the loss of sight leads one astray.

      Bambergische Halssgerichts Ordenung (Metz: Johann Schöffer, 1508). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

      Bambergische peinliche Halszgerichtszordnung (Bamberg: Johann Wagner, 1580). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

      “The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

      Pages

      Subscribe to Rare Books Blog