Rare Books Blog

Taussig Collection of English Law
August 20, 2013

While this blog was on hiatus this summer, news spread of the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s most significant rare book acquisition this year, and one of its most significant ever. I am referring to Anthony Taussig’s collection of English law books and manuscripts. See the June 16 article in the New York Times, “English Gavels Resound in a Trove Headed to Yale,” as well as an article in the Yale Law Report and news releases issued by the Yale Law School and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Anthony Taussig is a retired barrister of Lincoln’s Inn. He began collecting rare law books and manuscripts 35 years ago, and succeeded in forming the one of the finest collections of its kind ever built. While the collection has many outstanding high spots, what is most impressive is its breadth and depth in materials relating to the history of law practice in England, and its research value.

Taussig’s entire manuscript collection went next door to our colleagues at the Beinecke. The Law Library acquired 211 of Taussig’s printed books, which is only a small fraction of his collection. Their purchase was funded in large part by a generous grant from the Yale Law School’s Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.

The news media’s attention has gone to the high spots. The Abbreviamentum statutorum (ca. 1481), possibly the first printed book of English law, was the subject of a video essay, “The Sound of One Book Clapping,” by Mark Weiner on his Worlds of Law blog. The boke of iustyces of peas (1506) was the first printed J.P. manual; and The lawes resolutions of womens rights (1632) was the first English book on women’s rights.

Equal in significance, however, are the substantial additions in a number of fields. These include 52 titles relating to law reform, including the titles shown below; 27 titles on commercial law; and 18 titles on English bankruptcy. Our William Blackstone Collection, already the most comprehensive in the world, was strengthened with another 24 titles by and about Blackstone. In addition, we acquired 22 titles by William Sheppard, one of the most prolific legal authors of the 17th century, and 27 by Giles Jacob, the most prolific legal author of the 18th century. There were twelve titles by William Lambarde and seven by Michael Dalton. Eleven of the titles are by or relating to Granville Sharp, the founder of the British abolition movement. Mark Weiner looked at one of the Granville Sharp items in a video essay, “Sharp’s Numbers,” on his Worlds of Law blog.

In future posts we will look at these acquisitions in more detail. An exhibit and public program is also being planned. Stay tuned …


Rare Book Librarian


Taussig Collection - law reform

Clockwise from top left: The proctor and parator their mourning (1641); Decisiones provinciales cum notis variorum et Fusty-whyggii (1820?); Edward Whitaker, The second part of Ignoramus justices (1682); Some further advice to the gentlemen members of the late instituted Society of Attornies (1753).

Photographs by Harold Shapiro.


Tractatus de jure emphyteutico 1727
July 8, 2013

The Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog has a new home, at the URL <http://library.law.yale.edu/blogs/rare-books>. All of the content at the previous address (five years’ worth!) has been migrated to the new site. The move is part of an overhaul of the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s website. Many thanks to my colleagues Jason Eiseman and Jordan Jefferson for engineering the move. I like the clean, uncluttered look of the new site. I hope you like it, too.

If you subscribe to the blog with an RSS reader, you should not notice any change; your subscription should update seamlessly. If you encounter any problems or glitches, please email me at <mike.widener[at]yale.edu> and let me know.

Lots of news has accumulated while the move was happening, including the Anthony Taussig acquisition. Stay tuned!

Rare Book Librarian

May 5, 2013

We recently acquired 18 pamphlets, many of them illustrated, on the 1820 trial of Queen Caroline of England, one of the most sensational events of Regency England. Her husband, the unpopular King George IV, put her on trial for adultery in the House of Lords, in an effort to dissolve their marriage.

While serving as Regent during the incapacity of his father George III, “Mad King George”, the future king acquired a reputation as a spendthrift, a drunk, and a womanizer. His arranged marriage to Caroline, a German princess, was never a happy one, and they separated soon after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte. Caroline departed for Europe and rumors later circulated that the head of her household, the Italian courtier Bartolomeo Bergami, was her lover.

Upon the death of George III in 1820, Caroline’s husband took the throne as George IV, and Caroline returned to England to claim her place as the queen consort. He retaliated by introducing the Pains and Penalties Bill in Parliament, declaring Caroline guilty of adultery and granting him a divorce. By this time George was intensely unpopular with the British public, who took the Queen’s side. The reform movement adopted Caroline as their figurehead.

The trial generated a huge amount of press coverage, pamphlets and broadsides, such as the example shown here: The R–l Fowls, or, The Old Black Cock’s Attempt to Crow over His Illustrious Mate(7th ed.; London: Printed for Effingham Wilson, 1820). They are forerunners of the tabloid press and the satire of Monty Python.

Our newest Flickr gallery, The Trial of Queen Caroline, displays all our holdings on the trial, including over twenty pamphlets and six multi-volume accounts of the trial, most of them copiously illustrated. As a whole, they can support research on the press, gender issues, divorce, popular illustrators, the British monarchy, and many other topics.

For more on the trial, see the Wikipedia article, “Pains and Penalties Bill 1820”; the online article by Carolyn Harris, “The Trial of Queen Caroline in 1820 and the Birth of British Tabloid Coverage of Royalty”; and the book by Jane Robins, Rebel Queen: The Trial of Caroline (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Rare Book Librarian

April 26, 2013

The Rare Book Collection is excited to announce that it now has its own section in the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s eYLS Repository. Titled Yale Law Special Collections, it contains digitized rare books and manuscripts from the Rare Book Collection. You can download, print, or just view them online by visiting the eYLS Repository.

The collection is arranged in several sub-series: American Trials, British Trials, Connecticut Legal History, Legal Education, History of the Yale Law School, and Italian Statutes. Pictured below is one of the items in the Connecticut Legal History series: A sermon, delivered at Danbury, Nov. 13th, 1817: being the day appointed for the execution of Amos Adams, for the crime of rape (New Haven: T.G. Woodward, 1817) by the Rev. William Andrews (1782-1838).

Stay tuned for announcements of additions to our online collection, on these and other topics.

This material is brought to you free of charge and free of restrictions. We only ask that, as a courtesy, you cite the Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, as the source, and that you notify us if you plan to publish images.

For more information, contact Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian.

Collection & Access Coordinator

April 4, 2013

Michael von der Linn’s March 27 talk, “From Litchfield to Yale: Footnotes to the Exhibit,” is now available online in the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Vimeo channel. Von der Linn, Manager of the Antiquarian Book Department at The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., is guest curator of the Yale Law Library’s current exhibition, “From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843.”

In his talk, von der Linn focused on three documents relating to the early history of the New Haven Law School, which eventually became the Yale Law School. One is an Aug. 6, 1842 letter from Samuel J. Hitchcock to the Yale Corporation requesting permission for the school to grant the LL.B. degree, which you can view here (the third image).

The second document is a brief article from the Nov. 13, 1824 issue of The Religious Intelligencer, a New Haven newspaper:


“The Law School established in this city, by Seth P. Staples, Esq. will hereafter be conducted by the Hon. David Daggett and S.J. Hitchcock, Esqs. Mr. Staples having removed to the city of New York. From the success of this school, which has been growing in reputation, and increasing in numbers ever since its establishment; – from the well known reputation of the gentlemen who are now at the head of it; and from the many literary and social advantages which may be enjoyed in New Haven, we have no doubt that it will soon be equal, if not superior, to any similar institution in this country.”

The third document, shown below, is a manuscript from the Law Library’s Rare Book collection titled “List of students who have entered the office” [of Staples & Hitchcock from June 11, 1819 to December 26, 1824].


Rare Book Librarian



Litchfield Historical Society
April 4, 2013

Michael von der Linn, lead curator of our current exhibit, “From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782–1843,” will be speaking about the exhibit on April 19 at the Litchfield Historical Society in Litchfield, Connecticut. In his talk, von der Linn will explore how Sir William Blackstone’s seminal Commentaries on the Laws of England provided a syllabus for Judge Tapping Reeve, the founder of the Litchfield Law School. He will also compare examples from Book 1 of the Commentaries with Reeve’s own radical rewriting of that book, The Law of Baron and Femme (1816), and to show how Reeve revised Blackstone for a post-Revolutionary legal community.

The talk is part of the society’s “Lunch and Learn” series. The talk will begin at 12 noon on Friday, April 19, at the Litchfield History Museum, 7 South Street, Litchfield, CT. There is a $5 recommended donation for this program. Those wishing to attend are asked register by calling (860) 567-4501 or emailing .



April 3, 2013

The Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog turns five years old today, a good occasion for marking highlights and saying “thank you.”

Far and away the most popular posting of the last five years is “Holy diploma! Is Batman a Yale Law School alumnus?” (3 Oct. 2010), a byproduct of our exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books.” To date, it has been viewed 16,481 times. Thank you, Batman fans!


Coming in at number 2 on our greatest-hits list is “Images of Justice” (22 Dec. 2009), viewed over 3,700 times. Seth Quidichay-Swan put together this mini-exhibit as part of his internship in the Law Library, while he was studying for his master’s in library science from Southern Connecticut State University. Seth is now Faculty Services Reference Librarian at the University of Michigan Law Library. Other popular posts include “Freedom of the Seas: Bibliography” (23 Oct. 2009), compiled by Edward Gordon as part of the exhibit, “Freedom of the Seas, 1609: Grotius and the Emergence of International Law,” with 3,072 views, and “Capturing dealer descriptions in our online catalog” (21 Apr. 2012), with 2,549 views.

The Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog is a collaborative venture. I have been blessed with many outstanding contributors the past five years. They are:

  • William E. Butler
  • Dennis Curtis
  • Edward Gordon
  • Farley P. Katz
  • Seth Quidachay-Swan
  • Judith Resnik
  • Sabrina Sondhi
  • Alison Tait
  • Michael von der Linn
  • Benjamin Yousey-Hindes
  • Mark Zaid
  • Justin Zaremby

A number of colleagues in the blogosphere have kindly drawn attention to the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog over the years. I am a big fan of all of them and heartily recommend them. Thanks to:

Thanks also to my colleague Jason Eiseman, head of Technology Services, for his technical support and advice.

Thanks most of all to you, my readers. I welcome suggestions and comments. You can email me at .


Rare Book Librarian

The image: Woodcut initial from Nicolaus Pragemann, Commentatio iuridica de genuina notione servitutis praediorum urbanorum (Ienae: Heller, 1759).





Subscribe to Rare Books Blog