Rare Books Blog

February 15, 2010

In 15th- and 16th-century Europe, reusing and recycling was second nature. Linen rags were turned into paper, human urine was used to create lye, iron was melted down and refashioned. Bookbinders, for their part, cut apart discarded medieval manuscripts and reused the strong, flexible parchment in their bindings. Untold numbers of these fragments have survived until the present day, some completely hidden and others strikingly obvious. Each of these slips of parchment can help historians recover a bit more information about the distribution and popularity of medieval texts, the evolution of scripts, and the history of printing and binding.

The Yale Law Library houses nearly 150 early printed books whose bindings incorporate visible pieces of medieval manuscript. These fragments range in size from tiny scraps that can barely be seen, to entire sheets used to cover large volumes. Regardless of their size, each fragment offers both a keyhole peek into the medieval world, and a glimpse of Europe as it encountered the power of print.

In this exhibit we have tried to display books that reflect the diversity of medieval material that can be found in the Law Library’s bindings. As you explore, note the many styles and grades of medieval script, and the way scribes organized information and decoration on the page. Also, mark how bookbinders used the fragments, and the range of medieval texts to which they had access. (Bear in mind that books were often bound far from the city where they were printed.)

Only a small portion of the Law Library’s medieval material is featured in this exhibit. In addition to the many fragments, the Rare Book Collection holds 21 complete medieval legal manuscripts, and 136 books printed before 1500. If you would like to make use of these materials for your own research or teaching, please contact the Rare Book Librarian.

     – Notes by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, Stanford University

Fragments from a liturgical service book, ca. 1225-1325, bound in a volume of Year Book reports for the reign of Henry VI (London, 1500?-1547?). Larger versions of this and other images are available from the Medieval binding fragments gallery of the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. If you can provide additional information about the manuscript fragment displayed here, you are invited to send an email to .

“Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings” is curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener, and is on display through May 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

February 11, 2010

Nearly 150 early printed books in the Yale Law Library have bindings that incorporate visible pieces of medieval manuscript. A number of these books are featured in the latest exhibit from the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.” The exhibit is on display through May 2010 in the Law Library.

In 15th- and 16th-century Europe, recycling was second nature. Bookbinders, for their part, cut apart discarded medieval manuscripts and reused the strong, flexible and expensive parchment in their bindings. These scraps reveal information about the distribution and popularity of medieval texts, the evolution of scripts, and the history of printing and binding. A precious few of them preserve the only surviving fragments of long-lost texts.

The exhibit reflects the diversity of medieval material in the Law Library’s bindings. The Bible and liturgical manuscripts are well represented, some with early forms of musical notation. Four of the law books contain legal texts in their bindings. Other examples include a sermon, a fragment of Cicero, and two Hebrew manuscripts. One of the fragments is the oldest item in the Law Library’s collection, dating from around 975-1075.

While most of the fragments are identified and tentatively dated, a couple remain mysteries. The exhibit coincides with the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, March 18-20 at Yale University. Conference attendees will be invited to try their hand at identifying the fragments.

The exhibit was curated by Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The Rare Books Exhibition Gallery is located in the lower level of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (Level L2), directly in front of the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room. For those unable to visit the exhibit in person, it will appear in installments here on the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog. Additional images are available in the Law Library’s Flickr gallery.

 

February 5, 2010

One of my favorite events each year is the visit by the students from the Yale Law School’s Linkages Program. Over a dozen law students from Argentina, Brazil and Chile visited the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room on February 5. The items they viewed included Fori Aragonum [Laws of Aragon] (Zaragoza, 1496), with a splendid hand-colored shield of the city of Huesca and what one expert recently called the finest early Spanish binding he’d ever seen. I also put out our facsimile of the Treaty of Tordesillas, the agreement between Spain and Portugal that is the reason some of the students speak Spanish and others Portuguese. As usual, they had lots of questions and we had a great time. ¡Bienvenidos!

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

January 12, 2010

The January 12, 2010 issue of the Yale Daily News has an excellent article on our "Images of Justice" exhibit, curated by my intern Seth Quidachay-Swan of Southern Connecticut State University. Thanks to the reporter, Alison Greenberg, for a well-written piece.

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

December 22, 2009

The Lillian Goldman Law Library prides itself on having what may be the best collection of early Italian statutes in the Western Hemisphere. However, our collection will never come close to matching the superb collection of statuti at the Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica “Giovanni Spadolini” (the library of the Italian Senate).

It was a great privilege to tour the Biblioteca del Senato and its statute collection on a recent visit to Rome, courtesy of Dr. Raissa Teodori, Head of Special Collections, and Dr. Alessandra Casamassima (Special Collections Cataloger).

 


L-R: Alessandra Casamassima, Emma Widener, Mike Widener, Raissa Teodori.

Dr. Teodori gave an excellent overview of the library’s special collections at the 25th Annual Pre-Conference of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)-Library and Research Services for Parliaments, in August 2009, which is available as a PDF file. In addition, there is a published guide to the collection, co-authored by Teodori, Casamassima and Dr. Sandro Bulgarelli (Director of the Biblioteca del Senato): Le Radici Della Nazione: La Storia Delle Citta Italiane Nella Biblioteca Del Senato Statuto Dei Comuni E Libri Antichi Di Storia Locale Dal XIII Al XIX Secolo (Skira, 2004).

The Senate library and its sister library from the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Biblioteca della Camera, recently moved into a common building on the Piazza Minerva, next to the Pantheon. Both libraries have superb reading rooms and a strong emphasis on service to the general public as well as to legislators.

The library’s building is itself a historic monument. Formerly the mother house of the Dominican Order, it was the site of Galileo’s trial for heresy. The adjoining church, the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, is the only Gothic church in Rome, and contains the tombs of four popes, St. Catherine of Siena, the painter Fra Angelico, and an important figure in legal history, the canonist Guillaume Durand (d. 1296), author of the Speculum iudiciale, “the most widely used procedural treatise of the Middle Ages” (Kenneth Pennington, Medieval Canonists A Bio-Bibliographical Listing).

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

Piazza Minerva in Rome, with the Biblioteca del Senato on the left, the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva on the right, and Bernini’s elephant at center.

 

December 22, 2009

“Images of Justice” is an exhibit prepared by Seth Quidachay-Swan, who recently completed an internship in the Lillian Goldman Law Library as part of his work toward a Master’s in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University. Seth will receive his M.L.S. in January 2010, and he also has a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School (2008).

In his research for the exhibit, Seth drew on Images of Justice, 96 YALE LAW JOURNAL 1727 (1987), by Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis of the Yale Law School. This article has evolved into a book that will be out soon: Judith Resnik & Dennis Curtis, Representing Justice: From Renaisance Town Halls to 21st Century Democratic Courtrooms (Yale University Press, forthcoming 2010).

The exhibit is on display on Level L2 of the Law Library, in the wall case to the left of the door to the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room.

IMAGES OF JUSTICE

The image of Justice has been around for over 2000 years. Her lineage traces back to Egypt, Greece and Rome, in depictions of the goddesses Ma’at, Themis, Dike and Justitia. During the medieval period, Justice was adopted by Christian iconography as a representation of ancient virtue. Images of Justice were also common in Renaissance art and texts. Even today, Justice remains recognizable. Her image adorns many modern government buildings and court houses.

Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (Amsterdam, 1735).

Today, Justice is most recognizable as a blindfolded woman with a sword and scales. However, earlier depictions of Justice displayed a wide array of allegorical meanings. Justice’s iconic scales measure the strength of a case. Images of a dog and snake with Justice are thought to represent friendship and hatred that could corrupt judgment. Sometimes, Justice’s sword is replaced with a fasces, the Roman symbol of a judge’s power to punish. Two-faced depictions of Justice sought to dispel fears of blind justice morphing into blind fury by prudently leaving one face unblindfolded to carefully wield her sword in meting out judgments and one face blindfolded to show her impartiality in judging the merits of cases.

Joost de Damhoudere, Praxis rerum civilium (Antwerp, 1567).

Renaissance iconography often depicted Justice with her sister virtues: Prudence (looking into a mirror), Temperance (holding a bridle and water jug), and Fortitude (wearing a lion skin or carrying a broken column). This artistic tradition continued into the 17th and 18th centuries, but is rarely used today.

Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (Frankfurt, 1699).

Why is Justice so recognizable? Perhaps because Justice represents an idealized model of the legal system, with which political leaders and thinkers throughout history have sought to align themselves. For example, an image of Justice adorns a 1766 edition of Cesare Beccaria’s Dei delitti e delle pene (Of Crimes and Punishments). In this seminal work on criminal justice, Beccaria argued that punishments should be based on the injury caused to society, and that the prevention of crime was more important than its punishment. The text’s portrayal of Justice underscores Beccaria’s argument: Justice turns away from the barbaric and arbitrary punishments of medieval times in favor of a more enlightened penal code.

Cesare Baccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene (Haarlem, 1766).

 – SETH QUIDACHAY-SWAN, Southern Connecticut State University

December 16, 2009

On a recent trip to Rome I had the great professional and personal pleasure of reuniting an Italian town with an important piece of its history.

Among the volumes in our outstanding collection of early Italian statutes is a 15th-century manuscript of the statutes of Montebuono, a village about 60 km. north of Rome (see map). The manuscript was featured in our 2008 exhibit, “The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library.” The Fondazione Gabriele Berionne and its president, Renata Ferraro, were extremely helpful in supporting research on the manuscript.

In gratitude for this help, the Lillian Goldman Law Library digitized the Montebuono manuscript. I was pleased to deliver it in person to the mayor of Montebuono, the Hon. Dario Santori, during a visit hosted by Renata Ferraro on November 29. The Comune di Montebuono is actively in historic preservation activities, including the restoration of its beautiful 11th-century church, San Pietro ad Muricentum, which is built atop an ancient Roman villa that belonged to the architect of the Pantheon, Marcus Agrippa. The Fondazione Gabriele Berionne has supported these preservation efforts and published a splendid illustrated book, Montebuono e il suo territorio: storia, architetture e restauri inizia la ricerca (Mariasanta Valenti, ed.; Rome: Fondazione Gabriele Berionne, 2007), which can be consulted in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room.

For more information on Montebuono, see the Montebuono On Line website; follow the links for “Storia e Monumenti.”

My wife and I thank Renata Ferraro, her husband Giovanni Carosio, and Mayor Santori for a memorable visit, and Fiorenzo Francioli, a Montebuono official, for a learned and fascinating tour of San Pietro.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

 

L-R: Dario Santori (mayor of Montebuono), Emma Widener, Renata Ferraro, Giovanni Carosio, Mike Widener, Fiorenzo Francioli, and Antonella Francioli. 29 Nov. 2009 at Il Boschetto restaurant near Montebuono.

 

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