Rare Books Blog

August 5, 2009

The Rare Book Collection’s image galleries on Flickr are now part of the Yale Law Library’s Flickr site. All the previous content is still there – Legal Trees, Dutch Court Scenes, and Provenance Markings – and I continue to add images to these sets. New sets include:

  • 21 images from Francesco Maria Pecchio’s profusely illustrated Tractatus de aquaeductu (1713), a 4-volume treatise on the Roman law of aquaducts and riparian rights (see an example at right).
  • Images of Justitia (or Themis), or “blind-folded Justice with her scales.”
  • Title pages from a half-dozen 18th-century German legal dissertations. Our rare book cataloger, Susan Karpuk, spoke at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries on how to decipher their long-winded and complicated titles.
  • Two pamphlets relating to the prosecution of William Lanson, a leader of New Haven’s African-American community in the early 19th century. Lanson built the original Long Wharf and several other developments. In 1845 Lanson was accused of operating a house of ill repute. Isaiah Lanson’s Statement and Inquiry, Concerning the Trial of William Lanson (1845) is a defense of Lanson by his son Isaiah, and William Lanson’s Book of Satisfaction (1848) is William Lanson’s own defence, including a poem describing the events.

More to come…

Rare Book Librarian

July 30, 2009

… Benjamin Yousey-Hindes of Stanford University. Congratulations, Ben!

I am doubly pleased to announce this award: first because Professor Morris Cohen is the Director Emeritus of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, and a friend & mentor to so many of us in the rare law books community; and second because Benjamin Yousey-Hindes has done splendid work for the Rare Book Collection. He co-curated our exhibit, The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library, and is presently preparing a second exhibit, scheduled for Spring 2010, which will showcase volumes in our collection that incorporate recycled manuscript fragments in their bindings.

The award is sponsored by the Legal History & Rare Books Special Interest Section (LHRB-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries. Ben’s winning paper is “A Case Study of Canon Law in the Age of the Quinque compilationes antiquae: The Trial for Balaruc,” which I’ll let him describe:

The “Trial for Balaruc” is based almost entirely on a collection of documents that were assembled by the medieval bishops of Maguelone in southern France. Among these documents is a lengthy set of transcripts from a canon law trial in the 1220s. These trial documents can be used to reconstruct two distinct series of historical events: the physical conflict over the walled village of Balaruc (1222-1226), and the legal process that resolved that conflict (1226-1229) … In the paper, I not only reconstruct the narrative of the physical and legal struggle over Balaruc, but also show how the parties shaped their arguments and testimony based on emerging canon legal principles such as restitutio in integrum, and coercion by fear and threats. The underlying message in the paper is that researchers must strive to understand the wider juridical context of their legal sources, for sometimes those sources have been shaped by legal debates and norms that are not overtly articulated in the sources themselves.

See the complete interview with Ben in the Summer 2009 issue of LH&RB, the newsletter of the LHRB-SIS. Ben is a doctoral candidate in medieval history at Stanford University, and plans to pursue a career in rare book librarianship. He definitely has the instincts for a good librarian; see his Internet Sources for Medieval History website.

The formal presentation of the Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Prize took place July 26 at the Jacob Burns Law Library, George Washington University, as part of the AALL annual meeting in Washington, DC. Thanks to Scott Pagel, director of Jacob Burns Law Library, for hosting a wonderful reception.


Rare Book Librarian


(L-R) Karen Beck (Boston College Law Library), Katherine Hedin (University of Minnesota Law Library), Jennie Meade (George Washington University Law Library), Mike Widener (Yale Law Library), Benjamin Yousey-Hindes (Stanford University), and Joel Fishman (Duquesne University Law Library). Karen is the outgoing chair of the LHRB-SIS, Katherine & Jennie are co-chairs of the Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition, and Joel was one of the primary instigators in establishing the prize. Photo by Kasia Solon, Rare Books Librarian, Jacob Burns Law Library.

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.


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

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.


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 Tothill (1560-1627), The Transactions of the High Court of Chancery, Both by Practice and President (London, 1671).

Although reports of Chancery cases had occasionally appeared in manuscript Year Books and various printed case reports, Tothill’s Transactions of the High Court of Chancery (1st ed. 1649) was the first printed collection devoted exclusively to Chancery cases. Van Vechten Veeder described them as “extremely brief and unsatisfactory, often giving merely a bare statement of the facts of a cases and the final decree, without any indication of the grounds of the judgment” (“The English Reports, 1292-1865,” 15 Harvard Law Review 1, 112 (1901)). Decent Chancery reports did not appear until the dawn of the 18th century.


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

Sir Francis Moore (1558-1621), Cases collected and reported by Sir Francis Moore (manuscript in Law French, 2 vols., 1621).

________, Cases Collect & Report per Sir Fra. Moore Chevalier, Serjeant del Ley … (2nd ed.; London 1688).

Sir Francis Moore was a prominent English barrister during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. This manuscript, completed by Moore the year he died, contains notes of significant cases he and others observed in the Courts of King’s Bench, Common Pleas, Exchequer, and Chancery between 1512-1621. The first page of the manuscript proclaims Moore’s authorship: “Ex Libro Francisci Moore Militis Servieu ad Legem script p[ro]pria manu ipius,” which roughly translates as “Manuscript of Francis Moore, Sergeant of Law, written by his own hand.”

Although printing was widespread by this time, it remained expensive. As a result, books with a limited audience continued to be distributed in manuscript form. Moore’s reports circulated widely in manuscript before they were first published in 1663.

This manuscript once belonged to the noted jurist Sir Matthew Hale (whose signature appears on an interior page to indicate ownership), and is among the 21 manuscript volumes from Hale’s library now in the Yale Law Library’s rare book collection. Hale’s second wife was Moore’s granddaughter.

The printed volume on display belonged to Samuel Hitchcock (whose signature appears on the title page), one of the founders of Yale Law School. It was part of the original collection of the Yale Law Library, and forms part of the Founders’ Collection.

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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