Rare Books Blog

February 25, 2012

The latest issue of Law Library Journal is a special issue, “A Tribute to Morris L. Cohen (1927-2010).” Our own Fred Shapiro organized this fitting tribute to our mentor and friend. All of the articles can be downloaded from the LLJ website. – MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Law Library Journal
Volume 104, no. 1 (Winter 2012): A Tribute to Morris L. Cohen (1927-2010).

“Introduction.” Fred R. Shapiro.

“Morris L. Cohen, 1927-2010: A Remembrance and Celebration.” Vincent DiMarco, Kent C. Olson, Balfour Halévy, Lika Miyake, Mary Jane Kelsey, Sharon Hamby O’Connor, & Robert C. Berring.

“In Praise of Morris L. Cohen’s Bibliography of Early American Law.” Daniel A. Cohen.

“Morris L. Cohen: A Reminiscence.” Morris S. Arnold.

“Memories of Morris–and How I Use His BEAL.” Jordan D. Luttrell.

“Morris Cohen and Rare Book School.” David Warrington.

“Morris Cohen and the Art of Book Collecting.” Michael Widener.

“Cornerstones for Enduring Law Libraries: Morris Cohen’s Influence at Yale.” S. Blair Kauffman.

“Birth of a Nutshell: Morris Cohen in the 1960s.” Kent C. Olson.

“The End of Scholarly Bibliography: Reconceptualizing Law Librarianship.” Robert C. Berring.

“Appeals to the Privy Council Before American Independence: An Annotated Digital Catalogue.” Sharon Hamby O’Connor & Mary Sarah Bilder.

“Blackstone and Bibliography: In Memoriam Morris Cohen.” Wilfrid Prest.

“Booksellers in Court: Approaches to the Legal History of Copyright in England Before 1842.” James Raven.

“Practicing Reference … ‘That Most Congenial Lawyer/Bibliographer’.” Mary Whisner.

“Reflections: An Interview with Morris L. Cohen.” Morris L. Cohen & Bonnie Collier.

“Morris L. Cohen: A Bibliography of His Works.” Ryan Harrington & Camilla Tubbs.


February 24, 2012

The Lillian Goldman Law Library was delighted to host a book talk by Rosemarie McGerr on Feburary 24, on her new book, A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes: The Yale Law School New Statutes of England (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011). The book is an in-depth study of a Rare Book Collection showpiece, the Statuta Angliae Nova (ca. 1450s-1470s). A summary of the book is in a previous post.

In her talk McGerr pointed out areas where work remains to be done on the manuscript. In its creation and design, the manuscript shows the influence of Sir John Fortescue (1394?-1476?), chief justice of King’s Bench under Henry VI and author of De laudibus legum Angliae (A Treatise in Commendation of the Laws of England; 1st ed. 1543), an often reprinted treatise that, like our New Statutes manuscript, was prepared to educate Henry VI’s son in the duties of kingship. One of the manuscript’s later owners was Sir Thomas Elyot (1490?-1546), English humanist and author of yet another “mirror of princes,” The Boke Named the Governour (1st ed. 1531). Here’s hoping someone takes the bait and discovers what else this manuscript holds for us.

Our thanks to Rosemarie McGerr for sharing her time and knowledge with us and our guests today.


Rare Book Librarian

Rosemarie McGerr, Professor of Comparative Literature and director of the Medieval Studies Institute at Indiana University, with the Law Library’s Statuta Angliae Nova, which is the subject of her latest book, book, A Lancastrian Mirror for Princes: The Yale Law School New Statutes of England (2011)

January 25, 2012


We have just acquired an early printing of Brazil’s first constitution, Constituição politica do imperio do Brazil (Lisboa: Na impressão de João Nunes Esteves, 1826). Measuring only 10 cm. tall, it still retains its original printed wrappers; a remarkable survival. From the dealer’s description (quoted by permission):

“First edition to appear in Portugal? There are several editions with the same imprint; priority has not been established. Originally published Rio de Janeiro, 1824, this constitution was written in large part by the Emperor D. Pedro I. It served, with some modifications, until the end of the Brazilian Empire in 1889. Similar to the Portuguese Carta Constitucional, the second Portuguese constitution, written and promulgated in Rio de Janeiro in 1826 by D. Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil, in his capacity as D. Pedro IV, King of Portugal, it is no accident that the Brazilian constitution also appeared in Lisbon that year. Though liberal in its day, it was more conservative than the constitution the Brazilians would have had if D. Pedro had not intervened and their constitutional convention had had its way.” – Richard C. Ramer Old & Rare Books (Jan. 2012).

Rare Book Librarian

December 17, 2011

Our 15th-century manuscript of the statutes of Montebuono, Italy, is now available in a full-color facsimile edition, along with a full transcription and three scholarly studies. Lo Statuto di Montebuono in Sabina del 1437 (Rome: Viella Libreria Editrice, 2011) is available for purchase from the publisher’s website. It includes an introductory essay by Mario Ascheri, the leading scholar of Italian statuti, as well as a history of medieval Montebuono by Tersilio Leggio, and a detailed study of the Montebuono statutes by legal historian Sandro Notari. In addition, Alda Spotti of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma provided a transcript of the Latin manuscript.

I was honored to speak at a symposium marking the publication of the volume on November 23 at the Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica in Rome. Other speakers included Mario Ascheri (Università di Roma 3), Sandro Notari, Sandro Bulgarelli (director, Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica), Maria Teresa Caciorgna (Università di Roma 3), the Hon. Dario Santori (mayor, Comune di Montebuono), and Yale’s own Professor Anders Winroth. Following is an excerpt from my talk:

My library’s involvement with the Statuto di Montebuono began in 1946. In that year Samuel Thorne was appointed as the head librarian of the Yale Law Library. Thorne was not a librarian by training. He was a legal historian, one of the outstanding historians of medieval English law in the 20th century. However, Thorne had a librarian’s instincts. With the help of a large endowment, he began a ten-year campaign of buying rare books and manuscripts. He put the Yale Law Library into the first rank of historical law collections in the United States.

In his first annual report, for 1946, Thorne wrote: “The outstanding acquisition of the year was the notable collection of Italian statuta, numbering almost nine hundred volumes, purchased from a learned Italian lawyer who had brought it, over a period of fifty years, to its present completeness. It contained fifty-two manuscripts of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries, nine incunabula, and many sixteenth-century editions.”

With this single purchase, the Yale Law Library acquired what is still the largest collection of Italian statuti in the Americas. Among these nine hundred volumes was the 15th century manuscript of the Statuto di Montebuono.

In 2007, Professor Anders Winroth brought his medieval legal history seminar into our Rare Book Collection. One of his doctoral students, Ms. Oriana Bleecher, chose the Statuto di Montebuono for her research project.

Ms. Bleecher was perhaps the key catalyst in the project that led to the book we are celebrating today. She asked me if the Law Library could acquire a book that the Fondazione Gabriele Berionne had just published, Montebuono e il suo territorio. The Fondazione refused to sell us the book. Instead, Renata Ferraro insisted on donating this beautiful book to my library, on behalf of the Fondazione. As a token of gratitude, I sent Sig.ra Ferraro a copy of Ms. Bleecher’s seminar paper.

Soon after, Sig.ra Ferraro sent me a full-page article from the newspaper, Montebuono Spazio Comune, about our Montebuono manuscript and Ms. Bleecher’s research. In 2008, my library featured the Statuto di Montebuono in the inaugural exhibit in our new exhibit gallery. The title of the exhibit was “The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library.”

At Sig.ra Ferraro’s request, we digitized the Statuto di Montebuono, and then I put her in touch with Mario Ascheri, the world’s leading scholar of early Italian statutes. The result of their collaboration, Lo Statuto di Montebuono in Sabina del 1437 (Rome: Viella Libreria Editrice, 2011) is before us today. The Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, and I are deeply, deeply honored to have played a part in making this publication a reality.

I learned that my Italian colleagues consider the Montebuono statutes to be particularly significant: medieval municipal statutes from the Sabina region are generally rare, and especially such sophisticated statutes from a small rural community.


Rare Book Librarian

Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica, Rome, 23 Nov. 2011. L-R: Prof. Maria Teresa Caciorgna (Università di Roma 3), Sandro Notari, Prof. Mario Ascheri (Università di Roma 3), Prof. Anders Winroth (Yale University), Mike Widener.

November 7, 2011

The Yale Law Library’s online catalog, MORRIS, now provides an easy, automated way to learn about our recent rare book collections. You can subscribe to an RSS feed, “New Additions to Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection,” by adding this link, http://morris.law.yale.edu/feeds/rarebooks.xml, to your favorite RSS feed reader, such as Google Reader or Live Bookmarks. A list of all the available RSS feeds from MORRIS can be found here.

The feed reports the most recently cataloged rare book acquisitions, such as Clarence Darrow’s The Skeleton in the Closet (Riverside, Conn.: F.C. Bursch, 1914). We purchased this little booklet from Meyer Boswell Books, who described it as “The first separate issuance of the first of Darrow’s ‘two major attempts at literature’, long to underpin his philosophical view of life as ‘a never-ending school [teaching us] to turn from [its] … dire defeats to the mastery of ourselves’.”

Thanks to Mary Jane Kelsey, our Associate Librarian for Technical Services, for making this possible.

Rare Book Librarian

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.

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!


Rare Book Librarian





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