Rare Books Blog

May 4, 2010

I received dozens of wonderful thank-you letters from the fourth-grade students of Ridge Road Elementary School in North Haven, who visited on April 22, like the one pictured here from Chandler. I read every single one of them. Judging from the letters, the Supreme Court Bobbleheads were a huge hit, as were the medieval manuscripts in our exhibit, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.”

Chandler was one of several students who asked questions in their letters. Good questions from good students deserve good answers.

Chandler asks: “Do the old books need to be in hot or cold temperature?”

Cooler temperatures are better for old books, Chandler. Cooler temperatures slow down chemical reactions that cause the materials in books to deteriorate. Warm temperatures, combined with high humidity, can also cause mold spores to wake up and begin reproducing. It is also important to keep old books at an even temperature, because changes in temperature can cause the books to change their shape. In the Law Library’s Rare Book Room, we keep the temperature at a steady 69 degrees Fahrenheit, and a relative humidity of 45%. You can learn more from a leaflet titled Temperature, Relative Humidity, Light, and Air Quality: Basic Guidelines for Preservation, from the Northeast Document Conservation Center.

Sydney writes: “I never thought the sun could destroy or ruin all those beautiful books! So, what sort of things do you put in the exhibits while the sun is out in summer?

Sunlight cannot reach our exhibit cases, Sydney. In addition, we have taken several steps to limit the chance of damage from light. The plexiglass on the exhibit cases filters out almost all of the ultraviolet light. We also have sleeves on the flourescent light tubes, to cut down the general level of light. For more information, see Protection from Light Damage, a leaflet from the Northeast Document Conservation Center.

Ever writes: “I still can’t believe that the Yale students get to touch, hold and read the books. Wouldn’t the books just break into little pieces?”

We have special rules for handling the books, Ever. The books must stay in our reading room, under my supervision. The readers use special foam cradles to support the books, they must use pencil instead of ink to take notes, and they must handle the books with care. However, we want students to use our books. The books come alive when they are used. Our job is not only to collect and protect these treasures, but also to share them with students and teachers.

Finally, to all the Ridge Road students who said they wanted to come visit again: Please do come back!

Best wishes,


Rare Book Librarian


April 22, 2010

On April 22 the Rare Book Collection hosted 84 4th-grade students from Ridge Road Elementary School in North Haven, CT. They toured our current exhibit, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.” They posed plenty of perceptive questions. It was a delight to have them.

They also got a kick out of our display of Supreme Court Bobbleheads…

Thanks to Ridge Road Elementary’s librarian, Lydia Westerberg, for organizing this visit, to the other Ridge Road Elementary teachers and parents who accompanied the students, and to my library colleagues Cesar Zapata and Kathy Eow for their help.

Rare Book Librarian

April 8, 2010

A brief research guide, Researching Race in the American Trials Collection, is now online. A link to the guide is in the Law Library’s Research page, under the heading “Legal Research Guides. While the guide’s focus is on trials involving slavery, segregation, and related issues, it’s also helpful for researching other topics in the American Trials Collection. Additional slavery resources are available via the Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal.

We’ve added about 100 titles to the American Trials Collection in the last year, including Trial of Thomas Sims, on an Issue of Personal Liberty (Boston, 1851), described by Paul Finkelman as the most complete record of “the first important and intensive investigation of the meaning of the 1850 [Fugitive Slave] Act” (Slavery in the Courtroom, p. 94). This pamphlet is also available online, courtesy of the American Memory website of the Library of Congress.


Rare Book Librarian

March 31, 2010

Over 40 members of the Medieval Academy of America attended our open house on March 19, as part of the Academy’s 2010 Annual Meeting at Yale. The occasion was our current exhibit, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.”

After a brief presentation from the exhibit’s lead curator, Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, we set them loose to the exhibit, and an additional 40 volumes in our reading room. We provided forms for them to contribute information about the fragments; a parlor game for medievalists. One of them used his iPhone to show us where a musical fragment fits into the medieval liturgy. Several told us “you should email Professor X about this fragment.”

Those who generously contributed information included Elizabeth Brown (CUNY), George Brown (Stanford), Lisa Fagin Davis (Simmons College), Consuelo Dutschke (Columbia University), Dennis Dutschke (Arcadia University), Joseph Dyer (University of Massachusetts-Boston), David Ganz (King’s College London), Susan L’Engle (St. Louis University), William Mahrt (Stanford University), Hope Mayo (Harvard), Richard Rouse (UCLA), Matthew Salisbury (University of Oxford), Alison Stones (University of Pittsburgh), Rod Thomson (University of Tasmania), Linda Voigts (University of Missouri-Kansas City), and Mary Wolinski (Western Kentucky University). I am adding the information they provided to the online version of the exhibit.

Thanks to all who attended for making the open house a resounding success. One senior paleographer said, “I won’t remember a single paper that I hear at this conference, but I’ll remember this event.”


Rare Book Librarian


Benjamin Yousey-Hindes, the exhibit’s lead curator, introduces the exhibit to Medieval Academy of America members.

Medieval Academy of America conferees studying our exhibit, “Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings.”

Let the games begin! Medievalists examining some of the additional volumes with medieval manuscripts in the bindings, set out for them in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room.

Photographs by Ty Streeter, Office of Public Affairs, Yale Law School.



March 27, 2010

The Yale Daily News published an excellent feature on the Rare Book Collection, “Amid legal scholarship, some wacky stacks”, on the front page of its March 26, 2010 issue. Thanks to reporter Danny Serna and photographer Joseph Breen for the considerable time and skill they invested. They were especially intrigued by our illustrated legal materials, such as the Supreme Court bobbleheads, law-related comic books, and the Morris Cohen Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection. Not many rare book collections are chacterized as “wacky.” They meant it as a compliment and I take it as a compliment. Wacky is good!


Rare Book Librarian

Books from the Morris Cohen Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection. Photograph by Joseph Breen, Yale Daily News.



March 18, 2010

The Green Bag, “An Entertaining Journal of Law,” has selected the Lillian Goldman Law Library to be the official archive of its Supreme Court Bobbleheads. To mark this momentous event, the Rare Book Collection has put a selection of Supreme Court Bobbleheads on display, on Level L2 of the Law Library, in the wall case at the entrance to the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room.

Adam Liptak, the New York Times reporter who covers the U.S. Supreme Court, published an excellent article on the exhibit, “Relax, Legal Scholars: Bobbleheads Are Safe at Yale”, in the March 17, 2010 issue of the New York Times.

The Green Bag began issuing its Supreme Court Bobbleheads in 2003 with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Subsequently, the bobbleheads have come out roughly in order of seniority, with Justice David H. Souter being the most recent of the sitting Justices (issued shortly before his retirement from the Court).

The bobbleheads have a sophisticated iconography, as Ross E. Davies, editor-in-chief of The Green Bag, explained in the New York Times article: “The bobbleheads are, not to overstate it, a little bit more than toys. They’re portrayals of the work and character of these judges.” See “The Annotated Bobblehead: Justice John Paul Stevens,” at right, for an example.

So far, The Green Bag has issued bobbleheads of seven modern Justices (in order of appearance they are William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Harry A. Blackmun, and David H. Souter) and two historic Justices (Louis D. Brandeis and Benjamin Curtis, author of a famous dissent to the Dred Scott decision). Forthcoming are small bobbleheads of the first Supreme Court Justices (John Jay, William Cushing, and John Rutledge).

Yale’s Supreme Court Bobblehead Collection also includes dozens of “draft” bobbleheads, reflecting earlier stages in their design.

The Green Bag bobbleheads are not the first bobbleheads in the Rare Book Collection. That honor goes to the bobblehead of Yale law professor and Dean Emeritus Harold Hongju Koh, which was issued in 2006 as a fundraiser for the Yale Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society.

Thanks to Ross Davies and The Green Bag for making this acquisition possible, and to Fred Shapiro, our Associate Librarian for Collections & Access, who had the inspired idea of contacting The Green Bag.

The Supreme Court Bobblehead exhibit will be on display through the summer.

Rare Book Librarian

February 28, 2010

I have two people to thank for independently solving my Provenance Puzzle #2: my friend the San Antonio tax attorney and bibliophile Farley Katz, and Christopher Frey of Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer in Vienna.

The armorial stamp, shown at left, is of the Austrian nobleman Joseph Anton von der Halden (1665-1728) from Vorarlberg, who was created Baron in 1686. The letters around the border of the stamp, “I A E V D H F Z A H Z A V O”, stand for “Ioseph Anton Eusebius von der Halden Freiherr zu Authenried Herr zu Anhofen und Ochsenbrunn.”

This stamp is found on fourteen folio volumes that came to the Lillian Goldman Law Library as part of the Roman-Canon Law Collection of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. They are all bound in stamped pigskin over wooden boards with rounded spines.

Farley Katz provided his solution via the wonderful Can You Help? website sponsored by the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) and operated by Dr. David Shaw. It enables users to post images and descriptive information for bookplates, armorial stamps, and other provenance evidence that they cannot identify, in the hopes that others can provide answers. It’s crowd-sourcing for provenance research. Farley’s solution to Provenance Puzzle #2 can be found here.

Christopher Frey provided an additional source for von der Halden: Alexander Schneder, “Die Von der Halden in Vorarlberg. Eine genealogische Studie”, in Jahrbuch der Heraldisch-Genealogischen Gesellschaft ‘Adler’, Jg. 1951/54, Folge 3, vol. 3 (Vienna 1954), p. 30-43.

Quoting from Frey’s email to me: “We once had a set with these exact armorial stamps - Leibniz’s Codex juris gentium diplomaticus (Hannover, 1693), which later ended up in the library of King Ernst August I of Hanover (1771-1851). King George V of Hanover later presented the set to the historian Onno Klopp, who followed the King into exile to Vienna. The set then turned up in the library of the Vienna Discalced Augustinians, from where we acquired it.” It turns out that Frey’s firm sold this set to our next-door neighbors, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


Additional help came from Susan L’Engle of the Vatican Film Library, St. Louis University, and from Klaus Graf.


Rare Book Librarian



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