Rare Books Blog

February 18, 2013

The news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation brings to mind an image from our rare book collection that illustrates a previous papal resignation, that of Pope Celestine V. Celestine appears together with his successor, Boniface VIII, in an image at the opening of a 1514 edition of the Liber Sextus: Sextus decretalium liber a Bonifacio. viij. in concilio Lugdunensi editus (Venice: Luca Antonio Giunta, 1514). The Liber Sextus formed part of the Corpus Juris Canonici ("The Body of Canon  Law") that served as the foundation of canon law in the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages until 1917. 

It is unsurprising to find images of Boniface VIII at the opening of the Liber Sextus, since he is the pope who ordered its compilation. It is surprising to find such unflattering images. The woodcut depicts two scenes from Boniface's life.

In the foreground, Boniface embraces a fox who pulls the papal tiara from the head of his predecessor, Celestine V. A dove over Celestine's head symbolizes the Holy Spirit conferring its blessing upon Celestine. In essence, the image repeats the accusation that Boniface tricked the saintly Celestine into resigning.

Celestine V had been a monk renowned for his piety and asceticism, who founded a strict branch of the Benedictines. A divided College of Cardinals elected him in July 1294 after having failed for over two years to elect one of their own. The new pope accepted his election reluctantly, and soon concluded that he was unfit and unwilling to continue to serve as pope. Some sources say Celestine's decision to resign was his alone, while others say Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, the future Boniface VIII, goaded and tricked him into resigning. All agree that Boniface drafted the papal constitution authorizing a pope's resignation. Boniface was elected pope immediately afterward, in December 1294. Celestine tried to return to a hermit's life, but he died as Boniface's prisoner in 1296. Celestine was canonized in 1313.

Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI visited Celestine's remains in 2009, after they had survived the L'Aquila earthquake (see photos here). He proclaimed the Celestine Year from 28 August 2009 to 28 August 2010, to mark the 800th anniversary of Celestine's birth.

On the right of the image shown here is a scene from the end of Boniface VIII's papacy, in 1303. He was taken prisoner by the powerful Colonna clan of Rome, with whom Boniface carried on a bitter and bloody feud. The Colonnas and their ally, King Philip IV of France, demanded Boniface's resignation, to which Boniface replied that he would "sooner die." His wish was granted a few days later. It was Philip IV who later nominated Celestine V for sainthood.

Both Boniface and Celestine make appearances in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Dante places Boniface in the eighth circle of Hell, reserved for those guilty of simony. Dante's exile from Florence was a direct result of Boniface VIII's political machinations, and Boniface was "Dante's most reviled theological, political, and personal enemy" (Danteworlds website, University of Texas at Austin). Celestine V is believed to be the coward beside the gate of Hell who made "the great refusal" by abdicating the papacy and paving the way for Boniface's election as pope.

For citations to scholarly writings on papal resignations in the Middle Ages, see "The first papal abdication since six centuries", a posting in the excellent Rechtsgeschiedenis Blog, "Legal history with a Dutch view." The Wikipedia articles on Celestine V and Boniface VIII provide additional details and links to additional sources.

-- MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

 

February 9, 2013

“Advertisement.” In Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School, from 1793 to 1827 inclusive (Litchfield, Conn.: S. S. Smith, 1828). [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

For the most part, Connecticut law schools attracted students through the reputation of their instructors and the recommendations of former students. As indicated here, they also relied on circulars and advertisements. Several were published in prominent regional and national periodicals. Litchfield’s course was completed in fourteen months, but students were welcome to attend for briefer periods. The other three schools adopted Litchfield’s schedule (and charged similar fees).

John C. Calhoun, Letter of introduction to Tapping Reeve, 1810 Feb. 10. Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

The reputation of the Connecticut schools attracted students from nearby states and, over time, other regions of the country. John C. Calhoun, a future U.S. Senator, cabinet secretary, and Vice President trained at Litchfield, is a distinguished example. In this letter he introduces William Martin, a fellow South Carolinian who will be attending Litchfield. Martin did not choose Litchfield due to a lack of options in the South; by 1810 there were good law schools in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Certificate of Charles Adams’s attendance at Litchfield Law School lectures in the summer of 1812, signed by Tapping Reeve, 1812 Aug. 2. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Certificate of Elijah P. Grant’s studies at Yale Law School from August 1831 to April 1832, signed by David Daggett and Samuel J. Hitchcock, 1832 Dec. 22. [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

In most cases, bar associations would not admit a candidate to his examination unless he submitted a testimonial letter that confirmed his satisfactory completion of an apprenticeship. Applicants trained at law schools were not excluded from this requirement.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Tapping Reeve
February 9, 2013

Engraving by Peter Maverick, 1820, based on a portrait by George Catlin. Reproduced courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

Tapping Reeve (1744-1823)

  • B.A., Princeton, 1763, M.A., 1766.
  • Read law in Hartford under Judge Jesse Root, later chief justice of Connecticut.
  • Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, 1798-1815, chief judge, 1815-1816.
  • Author of The Law of Baron and Femme (1816) and A Treatise on the Law of Descents in the Several United States of America (1825).

 

James Gould (1770-1838)

  • B.A., Yale, 1791, LL. D, 1819.
  • Received his legal education at Litchfield Law School.
  • Judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, 1816-1818.
  • Author of Principles of Pleading in Civil Actions (1832).

 

Oil on canvas, by Samuel L. Waldo. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

 

 

 

 

 

Zephaniah Swift (1759-1823)

  • B.A., Yale 1778, M.A. 1781, LL.D., 1815.
  • Appears to have been self-educated as a lawyer.
  • Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, 1801-1806, chief justice 1806-1819; Connecticut State Assemblyman, 1787-1793, 1820-1822; representative, U.S. Congress, 1793-1797.
  • Author of System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut (1795-1796) and Digest of the Laws of the State of Connecticut (1822-1823); compiler of Laws of the United States of America (1797), the first official digest of U.S. statutes.

Oil on canvas, by James Weiland, based on an engraving. Reproduced courtesy of the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch.

 

Sylvester Gilbert (1755-1846)

  • B.A., Dartmouth, 1775.
  • Read law in Hartford under Judge Jesse Root, later chief justice of Connecticut.
  • State attorney for Tolland County, 1786–1807; chief judge of the Tolland county court and judge of the probate court 1807–1818, 1820-1825; Connecticut State Assemblyman 1780–1812, 1815-1816; representative, U.S. Congress, 1818-1819.

From “Journal or chronicle of Sylvester Gilbert.” Reproduced courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

 

Seth P. Staples (1776-1861)

  • B.A., Yale, 1797, M.A., 1801.
  • Read law in New Haven under David Daggett.
  • Practiced in New Haven, later New York City; Connecticut State Assemblyman (representing New Haven), 1814-1816.

Oil on canvas, by Jared Bradley Flagg. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

 

Samuel J. Hitchcock (1786-1845)

  • B.A., Yale, 1809, M.A. 1812, LL.D., 1842.
  • Attended Litchfield, studied in New Haven with Staples.
  • Judge of the New Haven County Court, 1838-1842; chief judge of the New Haven City Court, 1842-1844; mayor of New Haven, 1839-1841.

 

Oil on canvas, by Jared Bradley Flagg. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

 

David Daggett (1764-1851)

  • B.A., Yale, 1781, LL.D., 1826.
  • Read law under Charles Chauncey, a distinguished New Haven lawyer.
  • Connecticut State Assemblyman, 1791-1804, 1809-1813; U.S. Senator, 1813-1819; associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, 1826-1832, chief justice, 1832-1834; mayor of New Haven, 1828-1829.

Oil on canvas, by Ulysses Dow Tenney, after a portrait by Nathaniel Jocelyn. Reproduced courtesy of the Yale Law School.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

 

February 9, 2013

Reeve, Gilbert, Gould, and Swift taught their students through lectures. This was the most common pedagogical system of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The lectures presented a synopsis and interpretation of a given topic, along with case summaries and references to authorities. Students would record the lectures as they were read, then edit and preserve them in notebooks.

Journal or chronicle of Sylvester Gilbert (1755-1846) of Hebron. Photostat. [Image cropped.] Reproduced courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The law schools at Litchfield, Hebron, and Windham used the lecture method throughout their existence. In this memoir Gilbert notes that he read a set of lectures based on two years of intensive research and study. Like Reeve, Gould, and Swift, Gilbert believed that he could transmit a complete summary of the law to his students.

 

 

James Gould, “Law School at Litchfield,” United States Law Journal and Civilian’s Magazine, vol. 1, no. 3 (Jan. 1823). [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Gould emphasized the pedagogical value of taking lecture notes and organizing them in a notebook. It was also a practice that gave each student a “manual, or commonplace book, (including a repository of references,) to aid him in his professional practice.” Increasingly obsolete over the course of the nineteenth century, Gould’s method reflected an era when law books were scarce and expensive.

 

Litchfield Law School, Moothall Society. Continuation of reports of cases argued and determined in Moothall Society from August 5th 1797 to July 12 1798. Courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society.

In Litchfield and the other schools, students participated in moot courts and learned how to draft legal instruments. Hitchcock and Daggett also required occasional essays and presentations on legal topics.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

 

February 9, 2013

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century law books became widely available at affordable prices, thanks to the growth of the American publishing industry and improved communications. Instruction shifted gradually to the textbook-lecture method. In this system, still used today, students are assigned a schedule of readings, asked to summarize their readings in class, and answer questions about them. From its founding, this was the method used at the New Haven Law School. It remained the dominant form of instruction in American law schools until the late nineteenth century, when it was gradually supplanted by the case method, which was introduced by Harvard Law School in the 1870s.

William Cruise, A Digest of the Laws of England Respecting Real Property (4th American ed.; New York: Collins and Hannay, 1834), vol. 2. Ownership signature of Samuel J. Hitchcock. Founders Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The library that Hitchcock assembled was used by students in the New Haven (later Yale) Law School. The titles owned in multiple copies, such as Blackstone’s Commentaries and Cruise’s Digest of Real Property, were those issued to students. The remnants of this library make up the Founders Collection. This volume of Cruise’s Digest, from the Founders Collection, indicates the dates of recitations under Hitchcock’s supervision.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 9, 2013

Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) was based on a course of undergraduate lectures that Blackstone delivered at Oxford University. Intended for future members of England’s ruling class, it was the first truly comprehensive synopsis of the common law and its underlying principles. Attractively written, it was soon adopted by aspiring lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Blackstone’s Commentaries was especially popular in America. Members of the legal elite cited its origins to promote the establishment of law schools. Students used it for self-guided study or background reading. Instructors used it as a syllabus. In a letter to a prospective Yale law student dated Dec. 9, 1831, for example, Daggett says that “Blackstones Com. are the outlines & I endeavor to fill up certain of his topics such as mortgages, evidence, pleadings, contracts, equity &c. &c.”

Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 1 (Portland [Maine]: Thomas B. Wait, & Co., 1807). Armorial bookplate, “Doggett Daggett,” which is the family of Yale law professor David Daggett. William Blackstone Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Notebook of Charles Adams (1795-1821) from lectures of Tapping Reeve and James Gould at the Litchfield Law School, June-Aug. 1812. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The Connecticut law schools were devoted almost exclusively to private law, then the purview of elite lawyers, which is covered in the first three volumes. The first citation in the right margin, “1 B_ 426”, is to Blackstone’s Commentaries, volume 1, page 426.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 9, 2013

In Connecticut and elsewhere, instructors in the proprietary schools played a crucial and self-conscious role in the Americanization of the common law. Applying practical experience, political beliefs, and the ideology of the American Revolution, they revised it to suit local circumstances and showed where it was incorrect, obsolete, or irrelevant. This is especially evident in their reception of Blackstone’s Commentaries. On a fundamental level they helped to de-Anglicize the law by teaching the positive and case law of their state.

Instructors in the Connecticut schools played a dominant role in this process, training dozens of men who became influential lawyers, judges, legislators, and teachers. Litchfield’s alumni list, our largest and most distinguished example, includes two vice-presidents, 101 United States congressmen, twenty-eight United States senators, six cabinet members, three United States Supreme Court justices, fourteen governors, thirteen chief justices of state supreme courts, and seventeen members of the Connecticut House of Representatives. Reeve, Gould, and Swift’s widely circulated treatises, all published versions of their lectures, were equally influential.

Benjamin Pomeroy (1787-1855), Manuscript notes of lectures by Sylvester Gilbert at his Law School in Hebron, Connecticut (c. 1811). [Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Instructors in the Connecticut schools rejected Blackstone’s unquestioned reverence for the common law. As we see in this lecture by Gilbert, they often subjected his doctrines to counterexamples drawn from natural, civil, and Roman law.

Tapping Reeve, The Law of Baron and Femme (New-Haven: Oliver Steele, 1816). [Image cropped.] Ownership signature of Isaac Leavenworth (1791-1864), a student at the New Haven Law School in 1822. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The first American treatise on family law, Reeve’s Law of Baron and Femme is a restatement of Blackstone’s Commentaries, Book I, Chapters XIV-XVII. It rejects some of the fundamental doctrines of the common law, most notably coverture. As Blackstone puts it, “the husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during marriage.” Reeve says the opposite. Also a prescriptive work, Baron and Femme aimed to liberalize the American law of domestic relations, arguing, for example, that married women were permitted to make wills, a point contradicted by the contemporary statute and case law of Connecticut and several other states.

Zephaniah Swift, A Digest of the Laws of the State of Connecticut (New-Haven: Printed and published by S. Converse, 1822-1823).
[Image cropped.] Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Zephaniah Swift’s System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut, the first original American legal treatise, was highly regarded throughout the United States. Published on a subscription basis, its subscribers included George Washington, John Adams, Aaron Burr, James Kent, James Madison and other notables. Structured in the manner of Blackstone’s Commentaries, it presented an overview of the common law of Connecticut, and the common law generally, based on local court decisions and legislation. Swift’s Digest, a more ambitious work, is a complete recasting of the Commentaries. Though it referred to Connecticut law, the Digest addressed American law generally and was intended for a national audience. Both works were deeply influential and are still cited today.

– Notes by Michael von der Linn

“From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” curated by Michael von der Linn and Michael Widener, is on display through May 30, 2013, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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