Rare Books Blog

October 25, 2010

The November 2010 issue of Smithsonian magazine, available online, has a feature article, “A Murder in Salem” by E.J. Wagner, on the notorious 1830 murder-for-hire of Captain Joseph White in Salem, Massachusetts and the several trials of its alleged perpetrators. The case spawned a slew of pamphlets and broadsides, and is cited as an inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. (Thanks to PhiloBiblos, the blog of my colleague Jeremy Dibell, for bringing the article to my attention.)

Earlier this year the Rare Book Collection more than doubled its holdings on the Joseph White case with the acquisition of a collection formed by the Hon. Raymond S. Wilkins (1891-1972), a Salem native who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1956 to 1970. As a result, we now have ten of the twelve items on the White case listed in McDade’s Annals of Murder, and eleven of the fifteen items in Morris Cohen’s Bibliography of Early American Law (BEAL). Six of the titles in Wilkins’ collection are not in either McDade or BEAL:

 In addition, there is a collection of 26 letters, clippings, and other ephemera on the Joseph White case collected by Wilkins, some of it dealing with Wilkins’ unsuccessful effort to get a book on the case published by the Harvard University Press.

You can view the records for most of the Joseph White items by searching our online catalog, Morris, for the subject “White, Joseph, 1747 or 8-1830”.

Altogether, the collection provides rich and varied sources for research on the Joseph White murder.

Stay tuned for more “Research Opportunities.”



Rare Book Librarian

October 18, 2010

A video of Mark Zaid’s exhibit talk, “Superheroes in Court! Law, Lawyers and Comic Books,” is now available here, in the Yale Law Librarians channel at Vimeo.com. Zaid’s 52-minute presentation, recorded on Sept. 30, 2010, gives a brief overview of the history of comic books, and then delves into the various ways law and lawyers have been depicted in comics, as well as the influence of law on the comic book industry in areas such as copyright, trademark law, and censorship. Thanks to Dan Griffin of Yale Law School’s Information Technology Services, the video includes Zaid’s PowerPoint images. The video can also be viewed via the Law Library’s online catalog, MORRIS.

An report on Zaid’s talk is available in Scoop, a free e-newsletter for comic book collectors.

If that’s not enough, you can also listen to an interview with Mark Zaid, Dale Cendali (an intellectual property law attorney and comic book collector), and myself that aired on WNPR-FM’s “Where We Live” on October 4. Many thanks to the host, John Dankowsky, and the program’s producer, Josie Holtzman.

The exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books,” is on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.


Rare Book Librarian

October 14, 2010

The Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room welcomed dozens of Yale Law School alumni to an open house during Alumni Weekend, Oct. 8-9. On display were books and manuscripts donated by alumni. It was especially gratifying to have two of the alumni donors among the visitors.

Lois Montbertrand, LAW ‘85 (below, left), has single-handedly built the Connecticut Legal Instruments Collection with the gift of close to sixty early Connecticut legal documents – ranging from land deeds to summonses to lawyers’ ledger books – as well as printed legal forms, almanacs, attorney directories and other printed materials. The collection spans 150 years of legal practice in Connecticut, and is valuable for both teaching and research.

Mr. Jim Thompson LAW ‘55 (below, center), donated Elias Ashmole’s The Institution, Laws & Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (London, 1672). The volume has a long connection with Yale Law School. It was a gift to his late law partner, Anthony Rollins Burnam III, from his grandmother upon Burnam’s graduation from Yale Law School in 1943. Burnam’s widow gave the book to Mr. Thompson, who in turn donated it to the Law Library “as a memorial to Mr. Burnam, reflecting the high esteem which I hold in memory of his personal character and ethics, and his understanding of their vital importance to the successful practice of law.”

Rare Book Librarian

October 14, 2010

“Mexico Celebrates its Bicentennial: 1810-2010” is an exhibit in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15). It was curated by my colleague Teresa Miguel, Associate Librarian for Foreign & International Law, with some help from me, and includes several items from the Rare Book Collection. It is on display in the wall case just outside the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room, on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

If you can’t drop by to view the exhibit, you can see it on the Yale Law Library Foreign and International Law Blog. Below is one of the items in the exhibit, Juan Eugenio de Ochoa, Manual del abogado americano (Arequipa, Peru, 1830).


Rare Book Librarian



October 12, 2010

The Rare Book Collection was honored by a visit On October 11 from Ewald Nowotny, Governor of the Austrian National Bank, Dr. Peter Brezovsky, Consul General of Austria in New York, and their delegation. Later that afternoon, Governor Nowotny delivered a standing-room only lecture at the Yale Law School, “The Financial Crisis from the European Perspective.”

Among the items on display for the delegation were Franciscus de Platea’s Opus restitutionum, usurarum, excommunicationum (ca. 1472) considered to be the first printed book in economics, and Nicolaus de Beckmann’s Idea juris statutarii et consuetudinarii Stiriaci et Austriaci (1688), with engraved vignettes of Austrian cities. Governor Nowotny was especially fond of our first edition of Thomas Hobbes’s classic, Leviathan (1651), which he is holding in the photograph below. It was a delightful visit. I look forward to their return. A special thanks to Dr. Alexander Stremitzer, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, for arranging the visit.

Rare Book Librarian

L-R: Professor Alexander Stremitzer (Yale Law School), Gerald Fiala (Chief Representative of the Austrian National Bank in New York), Dr. Peter Brezovsky (Consul General of Austria), Ewald Nowotny (Governor, Austrian National Bank), and Mike Widener.

October 9, 2010

  “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books” was curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., and coordinated by Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian. It is on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

The illustration: Detective Comics no. 240 (Feb. 1957). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq.

Thanks to the following individuals for their help in making this exhibit a success:

Thanks also to all the blogs and online periodicals who spread the word about our exhibit, including:

For further reading…

  • William H. Hilyerd, Hi Superman, I’m a Lawyer: A Guide to Attorneys (& Other Legal Professionals) Portrayed in American Comic Books: 1910-2007, 15 WIDENER LAW REVIEW 159 (2009). Available online via SSRN.


October 3, 2010

Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, just might be a graduate of Yale Law School. On page 16 of Detective Comics no. 439 (March 1974), one can see a framed “Diploma of Law” from Yale University on the wall of Bruce Wayne’s study, on the right side of the panel:

Here is an enlarged detail of the diploma:

The diploma seems to have been granted by “Yale University at Gotham.”

You can judge for yourself, by visiting our exhibit, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books.” We have acquired a copy of Detective Comics no. 439 and added it to the exhibit, along with an enlargement of the diploma. We welcome your theories on Bruce Wayne’s alma mater.

Thanks to the Hon. Mark Dwyer, Judge of the Court of Claims (Supreme Court of the State of New York) and a 1975 graduate of the Yale Law School, for bringing this to our attention.

 ”Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books”, curated by Mark S. Zaid, Esq., is on display Sept. 4-Dec, 16, 2010 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.


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