Rare Books Blog

Morris L. Cohen
December 11, 2013

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Sixth 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. Professor Cohen was a leading scholar in the fields of legal research, rare books, and historical bibliography.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries and law librarianship. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., March 17, 2014.

The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for July 12-15, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal “Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books.”

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Abbreviamentum statutorum (London, 1481)
December 9, 2013

Of all the outstanding books we acquired from the collection of Anthony Taussig (see our previous post), one has special importance: an abridgment of statutes considered to be the very first printed book of English law. Known as the Abbreviamentum statutorum, it was printed in London by John Lettou and William de Machlinia, probably in 1481.

The Abbreviamentum statutorum arranges summaries of English statutes under 304 subject headings, and derives from one or more manuscript abridgments of statutes that circulated in 15th-century England. Most of the summaries are in Law French (Anglo-Norman), although a few are in Latin. The layout is similar to that of manuscript commonplace books, with generous space left in the margins and between titles that enable the reader to update his book. The book also includes a 12th-century glossary of Anglo-Saxon legal terms under the title “Exposicio Vocabulorum,” and thus could be considered the first proto-dictionary of English law.

Lettou and Machlinia were London’s first printers. The Abbreviamentum statutorum was the first of five law books they published, which included two editions of Littleton’s Tenures and two collections of statutes. For a summary of their work, see “Legal Printing in London” by Lotte Hellinga, a leading authority on early printing, in the excellent First Impressions website of the University of Manchester Library.

Our copy of the Abbreviamentum statutorum was featured in a video, “The Sound of One Book Clapping,” on Mark Weiner’s Worlds of Law blog.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Abbreviamentum statutorum (1481)

Bryan A. Garner
December 5, 2013

Bryan A. Garner, the world’s leading legal lexicographer, will give a talk on Monday, December 9, about the exhibit of association copies from his private book collection, which is currently on display in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Garner, Editor in Chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, has amassed a private collection of 36,000 books. He is particularly drawn to “association copies,” books once owned or inscribed by their authors or other significant individuals. The inscriptions, says Garner, are an “ineffable connection” with those who once signed or owned the book.

Garner’s talk is scheduled for 1pm on December 9 in Room 128 of the Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street in New Haven. A limited number of exhibit catalogues will be available for those who attend the talk.

The exhibit, “Built by Association: Books Once Owned by Notable Judges and Lawyers,” includes books inscribed by John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clarence Darrow, the most famous trial lawyer in American history. Other notable figures include Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Benjamin Cardozo, and Lindley Murray, a lawyer best known as “the father of English grammar.” Three of the authors taught at Yale Law School: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Judge Jerome Frank, and the iconoclastic Professor Fred Rodell.

Garner has been editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary since 1996. He has authored many other standard reference works in legal lexicography and legal writing, including Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (3d ed. 2011), The Elements of Legal Style (2nd ed. 2002), and The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (3rd ed. 2013). He is the co-author with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia of Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012). Garner is also the author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed. 2009), published by Oxford University Press. Garner is the owner of LawProse, which conducts seminars in legal writing around the world. He is also Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University.

Garner curated the exhibit, with assistance from Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian in the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The exhibit is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily, through December 18 on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

The boyhood days of Guy Fawkes (1895)
November 3, 2013

R.J. Lambe, The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes, or, The Conspirators of Old London (London: Edwin J. Brett Ltd., “Harkaway House”, [1895?]). Gift of the late Professor Morris L. Cohen. A specimen of the “Penny dreadfuls” genre of popular literature, from the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Nicolaus de Gijselaar, De venatione (1734)
November 2, 2013

The latest addition to our Flickr site is “Dutch legal dissertations”. This set of images is another product of my interest in illustrated law books.

The Lillian Goldman Law Library owns thousands of dissertations for doctorates in law from the 17th-18th centuries, most of them from German universities. The title pages of the German dissertations tend to be fairly plain and text-heavy (see the “German legal dissertations” set on Flickr for a taste), although the woodcut headpieces and initials can be quite pretty; you can view several examples in the “Justitia - initials” set.

However, almost all of the 18th-century Dutch dissertations have ornate engraved title pages, like the dissertation on hunting law shown here, one shown here, Dissertatio juridica inauguralis: De venatione (1734), submitted by Nicolaus de Gijselaar for his doctorate in law from Leiden University. Note that the title page is larger than the rest of the 24-page pamphlet. This is another common feature of Dutch legal dissertations. One hypothesis is that the title pages did double duty as broadsides advertising these important academic events, where the candidate would formally present his dissertation to the assembled faculty and dignitaries.

I have yet to find the same engraving re-used in another dissertation. This indicates both the prosperity of the Dutch Republic and the importance placed on the dissertations.

At this writing, “Dutch legal dissertations” contains images of only 10 dissertations, but more are on their way. I am scouring the uncataloged dissertations for additional examples.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Ordinationi e statuti della ven. Archiconfraternita di Santa Maria della Pieta in Campo Santo delle nationi teutonica, e di Fiandra (Roma: Nella stamperia della Rev. Cam. Apost., 1683).
October 27, 2013

Ordinationi e statute della ven. Archiconfraternita di Santa Maria della Pieta in Campo Santo delle nationi teutonica, e di Fiandra (1683).

This binding, 18th-century mottled calf with gilt decoration, shows the arms of Pierluigi Cardinal Carafa.  Carafa (1677-1755) had an active ecclesiastical career after receiving doctorates in Roman and canon law.  Before his death, Carafa served as the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia in Rome, and was active as a patron in the city.  The Ordinationi e statute comprise the statutes of a lay confraternity of German and Flemish nationals who provided burials and masses for their compatriots in Rome.  It is the first and only printed edition of the work. 

– Ryan Greenwood, Rare Book Fellow

“Armorial Bindings,” an exhibit curated by Ryan Greenwood, is on display from September 23 to December 18, 2013, and is located on level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva, Qvaestionvm practicarvm (1573), bound with his Variarvm resolvtionvm ivridicarvm (Frankfurt, 1573)
October 27, 2013

Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva, Qvaestionvm practicarvm (1573), bound with his Variarvm resolvtionvm ivridicarvm (1573).  Showing the arms of George Carteret.

Diego de Covarrubias (1512-1577), a leading Catholic jurist of the Counter-Reformation, was a professor of canon law, bishop and advisor to Philip II of Spain.  His works bound together here treat questions of procedure, based in canon and Roman law.   

Sir George Carteret (1610-1680) was Comptroller of the Royal Navy before going into exile on the downfall of Charles I.  After the Restoration, he became Treasurer of the Navy, and with John Berkeley received (also naming) New Jersey from the future Catholic King James II.  Carteret later helped draft a provision for religious freedom in New Jersey.  His arms show a squirrel sejant (upright) cracking a nut.

– Ryan Greenwood, Rare Book Fellow

“Armorial Bindings,” an exhibit curated by Ryan Greenwood, is on display from September 23 to December 18, 2013, and is located on level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.


Subscribe to Rare Books Blog