Rare Books Blog

November 2, 2011

The Law Library is always delighted when research on materials in our collection is published. An entire monograph on a single one of our manuscripts is a rare privilege and honor.

Such an honor has been bestowed on us by Rosemarie McGerr. Her latest book, A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes: The Yale Law School New Statutes of England (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), is an in-depth study of one our most important medieval manuscripts, the Nova Statuta Angliae (ca. 1450s-1470s). In the course of her study, McGerr rejects the previous description of the manuscript as a wedding gift from King Henry VI of England to his consort Margaret of Anjou. Instead, she argues that it was commissioned by Queen Margaret for their son, Edward the Prince of Wales. As described by the publisher:

This seminal study addresses one of the most beautifully decorated 15th-century copies of the New Statutes of England, uncovering how the manuscript’s unique interweaving of legal, religious, and literary discourses frames the reader’s perception of the work. Taking internal and external evidence into account, Rosemarie McGerr suggests that the manuscript was made for Prince Edward of Lancaster, transforming a legal reference work into a book of instruction in kingship, as well as a means of celebrating the Lancastrians’ rightful claim to the English throne during the Wars of the Roses. A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes also explores the role played by the manuscript as a commentary on royal justice and grace for its later owners and offers modern readers a fascinating example of the long-lasting influence of medieval manuscripts on subsequent readers.

Rosemarie McGerr is Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Medieval Studies Institute at Indiana University.

More information on the book is available from the Indiana University Press website.

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

October 28, 2011

 

Our current exhibit, “The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law”, is now available online. Up to now, you’ve been able to view the Rare Book Collection’s exhibits online via this blog. While the blog has been a great way to provide access to our exhibits, it has a problem as well: since the exhibits are posted to the blog in installments, the viewer sees them in reverse order.

The new stand-alone exhibit allows the viewer to see the exhibit in its original intended order. In addition, the “Contents” links on the left side of the screen enables the viewer to skip around the exhibit.

A big thank-you to Jason Eiseman, our Librarian for Emerging Technologies, who built the new stand-alone exhibit site.

In the next several weeks, we will add online versions of all the exhibits that have appeared on the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog. I will continue to post our future exhibits to the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog, but now the same exhibits will also be available on their own websites, where the viewer can see them as they were intended to be seen.

For those of you, my readers, who can visit our exhibits physically, there’s nothing like the real thing. I’m a huge fan of digital access, but it remains virtually impossible to communicate the size, scale, and dimensionality of the objects on display. Please come visit!

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

 

 

 

October 21, 2011

The latest addition to the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr galleries is a set dedicated to bookplates. The Bookplates set is a project of Drew Adan, Library Services Assistant in our Collections & Access department. He will be adding more images of bookplates in the coming weeks and months.

The set includes bookplates of the famous, such as the bookplate of Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), author of Commentaries of the Laws of England, the most influential book in the history of Anglo-American common law. His bookplate is in a copy of John Locke’s Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (4th ed.; London 1700), which we recently acquired for our Blackstone Collection:

We will also seek help in identifying bookplates, such as this colorful one found in the Summa aurea of Hostiensis (Lyon 1556):

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

October 10, 2011

One of my favorite recent acquisitions is a tiny pocket edition of Justinian’s Institutes, printed in 1510 by Jean Petit. It measures only 3.375 inches tall (9.5 centimetres). Our copy is bound in gilt tooled vellum over pasteboards, with much of the gold gilt rubbed off. The flyleaf bears an early owner’s inscription: “Ad usum Innocensi de Rosso”, and there are handwritten marginal notes throughout.

The Institutes is perhaps the most long-lived student textbook in history, used by students of Roman law for well over a millenium. It was originally promulgated as the authorized textbook of Roman law by the emperor Justinian in 533 A.D., and was still being used by law students in the 18th century.

To fit the Institutes in a pocket format, the publisher of the 1510 edition stripped away the medieval gloss that usually surrounded Justinian’s text. The full title, Institutio[n]es imperiales : sine [qui]bus legum humanarum sacrorum[que] canonum amator mancus est, could be roughly translated as “The Imperial Institutes, a book no law student should be without.”

At the foot of the title page are three maxims. “Cum bonis ambula” (“Keep company with good people”) is from Cato.  “Mors peccatorum pessima” (“The death of sinners is hard”) is from Psalms 34:21. “Sic utere tuo ut alieno non egeas” means something along the lines of “Do not steal.” These maxims also appeared on the title pages of other books printed in Paris in the early 16th century. Were they intended for the student’s moral edification, or perhaps to discourage book thieves? [Thanks to Susan Karpuk, the Law Library’s head cataloger, for help with the Latin translations.]

This is a very rare little book. The only other copy I could locate is at the Austrian National Library.

It is also, possibly, the earliest pocket edition of the Institutes. If someone can cite an earlier example, please let me know.

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

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.

       

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