Rare Books Blog

June 15, 2009

Harold I. Boucher was a great friend and supporter of law libraries and legal history, and a personal friend of mine. I am sad to report that he passed away on May 27, 2009, in San Francisco, a month shy of his 103rd birthday. Mr. Boucher was a proud 1930 graduate of Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California-Berkeley, and a former partner of the leading San Francisco law firm of Pillsbury Madison & Sutro. I believe the title he was proudest of was Honorary Order of the British Empire, conferred on him by Her Majesty Elizabeth II. For details of Mr. Boucher’s life and career, see his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I first met Mr. Boucher in about 1997 when I was running the Rare Books & Special Collections department at the Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin. He phoned to get information about our copies of John Cowell’s law dictionaries. I was thrilled that someone was interested in our collection of law dictionaries, and I began sending him articles and other items of interest. We had many long phone conversations over the years, and I always looked forward to them.

He published his extensive research into Cowell:Harold I. Boucher, Suppression of Interpreter and Denouncement of Dr. Cowell: the King James Version (1997). One of his discoveries arose from his professional interest in the law of wills and estates. The first edition of Cowell’s Interpreter has no entries for “codicil” or “will,” which is surprising given that Cowell was a civilian. There is an entry for “testament,” but all it says is “See will.” So, it’s sending you down a blind alley! The identical error is repeated in the 1637 and 1658 editions, but in the 1672 edition, finally, there are full entries for both “testament” and “will.”

Mr. Boucher was an unabashed Anglophile, as his Honorary O.B.E. demonstrated. He was especially interested in the 17th century, and his sympathies lay squarely with the Cavaliers and not the Roundheads. As our relationship developed, he began donating a number of fine volumes from his personal collection: the first edition of Cowell’s Interpreter (1607) and the 1708 edition; Thomas Wentworth’s Office and Duty of Executors (1703); the 1629 edition of John Rastell’s Termes de la Ley; William Bohun’s Privilegia Londini: or, The rights, Liberties, Privileges, Laws, and Customs, of the City of London (1723); and Tragicum theatrum actorum (1649), with its account and engraving of Charles I’s execution.In addition, Mr. Boucher provided the funds for the library to acquire several other fine volumes, such as Richard Hooker’s Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1618), William Hakewill’s The Libertie of the Subject: Against the Pretended Power of Impositions (1641), The Trials of Charles the First, and of Some of the Regicides (1832), and Cowell’s Institutiones iuris Anglicani (1630).

I am grateful that Mr. Boucher chose to continue supporting acquisitions when I moved to the law library here at Yale. He generously supplied the funds for us to acquire Essex’s Innocency and Honour Vindicated, or, Murther, Subornation, Perjury, and Oppression Justly Charg’d on the Murtherers of that Noble Lord and True Patriot, Arthur (late) Earl of Essex by Laurence Braddon (1690), with a frontispiece mapping the murder scene in the Tower of London, and John Brydall’s Jura Coronae: His Majesties Royal Rights and Prerogatives Asserted Against Papal Usurpations, and All Other Anti-monarchical Attempts and Practices (1680).

I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Boucher face to face only once, in the rare book room of Wildy & Sons at Lincoln’s Inn Archway in London. Roy Heywood of Wildy was kind enough to host our meeting.

I’ll miss Harold Boucher, and I join his family & friends who mourn his passing and salute his life.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

Harold I. Boucher, Mike Widener, and Roy Heywood. Rare book room, Wildy & Sons, Lincoln’s Inn

Archway, London, June 2002.

Map of the murder scene, from Laurence Braddon, Essex’s Innocency and Honour

Vindicated, or, Murther, Subornation, Perjury, and Oppression Justly Charg’d on

the Murtherers of that Noble Lord and True Patriot, Arthur (late) Earl of Essex

(London, 1690), gift of the late Harold I. Boucher, Esq., to the Lillian Goldman Law

Library, Yale Law School.

 

 

 

May 23, 2009

The following select bibliography includes the sources consulted in the preparation of this exhibit. The image is of the opening leaf of the Liber Assisarum, a collection of Year Book cases from the reign of Edward III (manuscript in Law French, ca. 1450).

English law reports

American law reports

  • Aumann, Francis R. “American law reports: yesterday and today.” Ohio State University Law Journal 4:3 (June 1938), 331-345.
  • Briceland, A. V. “Ephraim Kirby: pioneer of American law reporting, 1789.” American Journal of Legal History 16 (Oct. 1972), 297.
  • Duffey, Denis P., Jr. “Genre and authority: the rise of case reporting in the early United States.” Chicago-Kent Law Review 74:1 (Winter 1998), 263-275.
  • Harrington, William G. “A brief history of computer-assisted legal research.” Law Library Journal 77:3 (1984-85), 543-556.
  • Joyce, Craig. “The rise of the Supreme Court Reporter: an institutional perspective on Marshall Court ascendancy.” Michigan Law Review 83:5 (Apr. 1985), 1291-1391.
  • Joyce, Craig. “Wheaton v. Peters: the untold story of the early reporters.” Yearbook (Supreme Court Historical Society) 1985, 35-92.
  • LaPiana, William P. “Dusty books and living history: why all those old state reports really matter.” Law Library Journal 81:1 (Winter 1989), 33-39.
  • Surrency, Erwin C. “Law reports in the United States.” American Journal of Legal History 25:1 (Jan. 1981), 48-66.
  • Young, T. J., Jr. “Look at American law reporting in the 19th century.” Law Library Journal 68 (Aug. 1975), 294-306.

General works

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

May 5, 2009

George Caines (1771-1825), Cases Argued and Determined in the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and Correction of Errors, in the State of New-York (New York, 1805).

There was no formalized system of reporting in the U.S. until 1804, when both the New York and Massachusetts legislatures provided for official reporters with paid stipends. George Caines was appointed the first official law reporter for the New York Supreme Court. However, Chief Justice James Kent ousted Caines after only one year, complaining that “his work is too full of mistakes.”

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

May 5, 2009

William Johnson (1769-1848), letter to John Wells Esq., (Albany, NY, October 23, 1819).

William Johnson was Chief Justice Kent’s handpicked successor to George Caines as official reporter for the New York Supreme Court. During his tenure, Johnson produced 20 volumes of Johnson’s Reports, covering the period from 1806 to 1823. Johnson later added the post of Chancery Court reporter to his duties. Johnson’s Chancery Reports, covering the years 1814-1823, were the only specialized American equity reports of their time, greatly contributing to their influence in other states.

In the letter displayed here, Johnson mentions the case of Percival v. Hickey, which he reported in vol. 18 of his New York Supreme Court reports, and discusses the tribulations of a reporter’s work. The letter reads in full:

John Wells Esq.
Counsellor at Law
New York

Albany October 23rd 1819

My dear friend,
     The motion to bring on the case of Percival & Hickey was made today by Mr. Sedgwick, & accordingly I moved for the postponement of the arguments until the next term, which was granted. The plaintiff was here, & complained loudly of his Counsel Mr. E. [T.A. Emmet]. Mr. Strong forgot to send the points with the cases, which might have created a difficulty had the case been ordered on.
     The court have business, from the middle & northern Counties, sufficient to occupy them until Wednesday of next week. I hope to be able to leave here on that day, so as to have a short time in N.Y. before the Court of Errors.
     My Reports must fall greatly in arrears if so much of my time is passed in this place, of which every year, I become more & more tired.

     Yours truly,

     Wm. Johnson

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

May 5, 2009

Alexander James Dallas (1759-1817), Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Several Courts of the United States, and of Pennsylvania, Held at the Seat of the Federal Government, vol. 2 (Philadelphia, 1798).

In 1790 (one year after Ephraim Kirby began publishing Connecticut reports), Alexander Dallas began publishing Pennsylvania reports. The same year, the U.S. Supreme Court began operating out of Philadelphia. Dallas included a few of those reports in the second volume of his reports, and so he is considered the first U.S. Supreme Court reporter. Dallas produced only four volumes of case reports and they were often derided for being incomplete, inaccurate, and tardy. The Supreme Court reports were at least five years old when they appeared. Shown here is the first page of Supreme Court reports, where the Court began to organize itself and adopt its first rules. It was not until the August Term, 1792, that the Court rendered its first substantive decision, in Georgia v. Brailsford (2 Dallas 402). After Dallas, the unofficial post of reporter to the Supreme Court was held in turn by William Cranch, Henry Wheaton, and Richard Peters.

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

May 5, 2009

Report of the Copy-Right Case of Wheaton v. Peters: Decided in the Supreme Court of the United States: with an Appendix, Containing the Acts of Congress Relating to Copy-Right (New York, 1834).

Henry Wheaton had been unofficial reporter of U.S. Supreme Court cases from 1816-1827. Although his Reports were considered comprehensive and accurate, they were also quite expensive, being swollen with Wheaton’s lengthy annotations. When Richard Peters took the post of court reporter, he took it upon himself to condense the reports of his three predecessors and to sell these condensed volumes for a tidy sum. Wheaton promptly sued. In this landmark copyright case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for Peters and held that “no reporter has or can have any copyright” in the Court’s opinions.

Although not named, Peters is the likely publisher of this report. The dedication to Chief Justice Marshall, “due to your unequalled ability and usefulness; to the greatness of your character; the purity of your motives; and the kindness of your judicial deportment,” has the ring of a grateful litigant.

This volume is part of the Walter Pforzheimer Collection of copyright law.

MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

May 5, 2009

John B. West & Co., The Syllabi, vol. 1, no. 1 (Oct. 21, 1876; reprint ed.; St. Paul, Minn., 1991).

John B. West & Co., The Northwestern Reporter, vol. 1 (1st ed.; St. Paul, Minn., 1879).

After the Civil War, the number of cases being reported rose astronomically. However, these case reports were still very slow to reach print; delays of months or years were not uncommon. Select reports sometimes appeared in newspapers but, as they were aimed at the general public, these were not always accurate. In 1876, John B. West began publishing The Syllabi, a weekly newsletter aimed at practicing attorneys in his home state of Minnesota. Its goal was to “furnish the legal profession of the state, with prompt and reliable intelligence.” It lasted for six months before evolving into book format, and then being renamed The Northwestern Reporter.

The Northwestern Reporter was the first of the National Reporter System case reporter series published by West Publishing Company. By 1887, eight years later, West reporters would cover every state jurisdiction. In addition to being timely and accurate, West reporters were the first to feature editorial enhancements such as summaries of court opinions. Although not present in this first volume, later volumes also incorporated Key Numbers from the new West Digest system.

MIKE WIDENER

Rare Book Librarian

“Landmarks of Law Reporting” is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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