Rare Books Blog

February 9, 2013

We sincerely thank the following individuals for their help in making this exhibit possible.
      – Michael von der Linn & Michael Widener


Virginia Apple
State of Connecticut Judicial Branch

Whitney Bagnall

Kate Baldwin
Litchfield Historical Society

The Hon. Henry S. Cohn

Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court

Linda Hocking
Litchfield Historical Society

Shana Jackson
Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School

Mark Jones
Connecticut State Library

Debra R. Kroszner
Office of Public Affairs, Yale Law School

Bill Landis
Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library

Christine Pittsley
Connecticut State Library

Emma Molina Widener
Southern Connecticut State University


The image: Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School, from 1793 to 1827 inclusive (Litchfield, Conn.: S. S. Smith, 1828). Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“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 6, 2013

A new Yale Law Library exhibit celebrates Connecticut’s role as the birthplace of vocational legal education in the United States.

The exhibit, “From Litchfield to Yale: Law Schools in Connecticut, 1782-1843,” is on display through May 2013 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. It was curated by Michael von der Linn, Manager of the Antiquarian Book Department at The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., with help from Michael Widener, Rare Book Librarian in the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Although Virginia’s College of William & Mary began offering law lectures in 1779, the Litchfield Law School in northwest Connecticut was the first school to provide a focused curriculum of legal training, beginning in 1782. The school’s success inspired the establishment of a law school in New Haven in about 1800, which eventually evolved into today’s Yale Law School. Two other law schools operated for several years in Hebron and Windham. In the early 19th century Connecticut had more law schools than any other state in the union.

On display are student notebooks, textbooks, letters and other documents of the schools and their instructors. Included are items on loan from the Litchfield Historical Society and from Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library.

The exhibit is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily, February 5-May 31, 2013 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. It will also go online here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

At right: Lectures on law delivered in Litchfield (Connt.) by the Hon. Tapping Reeve and James Gould, esqr. in 1809 & 1810 / transcribed by Josias H. Coggeshall. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

January 26, 2013

My colleague at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Raymond Clemens, recently asked me for a list of the Law Library’s medieval manuscripts in vernacular languages. The list is in three parts: (1) complete manuscripts, (2) facsimiles, and (3) binding fragments. You can view images from each of the items in a gallery on our Flickr site, “Medieval manuscripts in vernacular.”



All of our complete medieval manuscripts are in Law French, the dialect used in English legal literature and common law pleading until the early 18th century. The image at right is from one of these manuscripts, a collection of case reports from the reign of Edward III known as the Liber Assisarum. Our collection has a number of manuscripts of Italian city statutes in the vernacular, but none of them are from the medieval era.



The outstanding examples here are the four facsimiles of the medieval Saxon law code known as the Sachsenspiegel. These manuscripts are known collectively as the codices picturati (illustrated codices) because they are heavily illustrated with images designed to help the reader understand and navigate the code.



These fragments were recycled as binding materials. Several of them were featured in our Spring 2010 exhibit, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.” We have two Flickr galleries devoted to manuscript binding fragments: “Medieval binding fragments,” with 189 images, and a subset of these, “Medieval binding fragments - legal texts,” with 33 images.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


January 7, 2013


The Lillian Goldman Law Library is pleased to announce a Rare Book Fellowship to train the next generation of rare law book librarians. We encourage applications from recent graduates and from those who are about to finish a degree in Library Science

The Rare Book Fellow will be trained in all aspects of special collections librarianship, following a curriculum designed by the Rare Book Librarian, which includes a general orientation, experience in collection development, preservation, reference and cataloging. The Rare Book Fellow will work for nine months at a stipend of $4500 per month, plus health insurance through membership in the Yale Health Plan. The Fellow will also be given generous support for professional development.

The Rare Book Fellowship is a competitive fellowship. Preference will be given to candidates with skills in the foreign languages most heavily represented in Yale Law Library special collections (Latin, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Dutch), and to candidates with demonstrated interest in law, legal history, or special collections librarianship. Applications consisting of a cover letter summarizing the applicant’s qualifications and describing how this position will contribute to long-term career goals, CV or resume, and names and contact information of three (3) professional references should be sent electronically to Teresa Miguel-Stearns (teresa.miguel@yale.edu), Associate Law Librarian, no later than March 1, 2013. There is no application form.  Please be sure to include “Rare Book Fellowship” in the e-mail subject and cover letter.  Offer is contingent upon successful completion of a background check.

More information about the Fellowship can be found in the attached brochure and on the Fellowship’s website: /rare-book-fellowship.


December 20, 2012

Best wishes


and a Prosperous 2013!

 MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Tree of consanguinity from a 15th-century Austrian manuscript of
Giovanni d’Andrea’s Super arboribus consanguinitatis et affinitatis.

December 3, 2012

Joseph Hémard was the leader in adding humorous illustrations to French law codes. However, he was not the only one, or even the first. The tradition began with the French Revolution and continues to the present. The Lillian Goldman Law Library has a number of examples in its Rare Book Collection. In some of them, the legal text has been converted into verse. Many others follow Hémard’s lead in juxtaposing hilarious visual commentary with the dry-as-dust legal text.

This exhibit is on display in conjunction with the Rare Book Collection’s main exhibit for Fall 2012, “’And then I drew for books’: The Comic Art of Joseph Hémard.”

Code de la route: texte officiel et complet / illustrations en couleurs de Dubout (Paris: Maurice Gonon, 1956). Acquired with the Gary and Brian Bookman Literature and Arts Fund.

“Laughing at Law Codes: A French Tradition,” curated by Mike Widener, is on display through Dec. 20, 2012, in Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

December 3, 2012

La Constitution  en vaudeville / oeuvre posthume d’un homme qui n’est pas mort, publiée par lui-même, et dédiée a Madame Buonaparte (Paris: Impr. de la Constitution, 1799). This protest against Napoleon’s new constitution shows his consort, the Empress Josephine, carrying the new constitution as she tramples the older ones.

Le Code civil / commenté par Cham; ouvrage destiné aux personnes qui dérsirent avoir des démêlés avec la justice (Paris: Martinet, 185-?). These are the earliest illustrations for the Code Civil. “Cham” was the pseudonym of Charles Amédée de Noé (1818-1879), a noted French caricaturist. there is a French blog devoted to Cham, as well as a Wikipedia article with some basic biographical facts.


Detail: “Objection to a marriage.”

“Laughing at Law Codes: A French Tradition,” curated by Mike Widener, is on display through Dec. 20, 2012, in Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.


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