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

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.

May 5, 2009

Sir Edmund Saunders (d. 1683), Les Reports du Tres Erudite Edmund Saunders … des Divers Pleadings et Cases en le Court del Bank le Roy (2 vols.; London, 1686).

Edmund Saunders authored the best law reports of the late 17th century, known for their accuracy and clarity. They set out the pleadings and give concise summaries of the facts, issues, arguments, and judgment. The overriding focus of the reports is with the law of pleading, at which Saunders was the acknowledged master. Later on, Saunders’ Reports was translated and annotated and became a classic textbook on pleading, although Saunders’ own text had largely disappeared by its last edition in 1871.

“Within the first decade after the Restoration there are several new reports, extending for the most part over the remainder of the Stuart period. Chief among them is Saunders (1666-73), who is universally conceded to be the most accurate and valuable reporter of his age. His work is confined to the decisions of the King’s Bench between the eighteenth and twenty-fourth years of the reign of Charles II. Saunders participated as counsel in most of the cases, and he reports them with admirable clearness. In general his reports resemble Plowden’s; but they are much more condensed. He gives the pleadings and entries at length, and follows in regular order with a concise statement of the points at issue, the arguments of counsel, and a clear statement of the grounds of the judgment. The work was subsequently enriched by the learned annotations of Sergeant Williams.” – Van Vechten Veeder, “The English Reports, 1292-1865,” 15 Harvard Law Review 1, 15 (1901).

Edmund Saunders’ life is one of the few rags-to-riches stories of English law. Born into abject poverty, he taught himself to be a clerk and eventually entered the Middle Temple. His skill as a special pleader earned him a lucrative practice, but he lived simply. A contemporary, Roger North, described him as a heavy drinker and “a fetid mass that offended his neighbors at the bar in the sharpest degree.” He was kind, witty, honest, and idolized by law students: “I have seen him for hours … with an audience of students over against him, putting of cases and debating so as suited their capacities and encouraged their industry.”


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 John Popham (1531?-1607), Reports and Cases Collected by the Learned, Sir John Popham, Knight, Late Lord Chief-Justice of England (London, 1656).

Popham’s Reports is but one of “the flying squadrons of thin reports” published in the mid- to late 17th century, and exemplifies their shortcomings. Popham himself can’t be blamed because he died a half-century before their publication, and probably never intended for them to be published. They were taken from a manuscript of unknown quality, and supplemented with a number of later cases. They were among many case reports translated (often badly) into English following the Commonwealth’s ban on the use of Law French in the courts. Many judges rejected them as having no authority, and banned their citation in court.

Sir John Popham was one of the most colorful of the law reporters, if the stories about him can be believed. As a child he was supposedly kidnapped and raised by gypsies, and worked his way through law studies at the Middle Temple as a petty thief. As a barrister, however, Popham rose through the ranks. By 1581 he was speaker of the House of Commons and Attorney General, and in 1592 he was made Chief Justice of King’s Bench. He was known as a strict but fair judge, and presided over the trials of the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. He was also one of the promoters of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.

“Indigested crudities”

“A multitude of flying reports (whose Authors are as uncertain as the times when taken, and the causes and reasons of the Judgements as obscure, as by whom judged) have of late surreptitiously crept forth; whereby … we have been entertained with barren & unwarranted Products … which not only tends to the depraving of the first grounds & reason of our Students at the Common Law, & the young practitioners thereof, who by such false Lights are misled, … but also to the contempt of our Common Law itselfe, and of divers of our former grave and learned Justices and professors thereof, whose honored and revered names have in some of said Books been abused and invocated to patronize the indigested crudities of those plagiaries.” – Sir Harbottle Grimston, preface to The Reports of Sir George Croke (1657)

“See the inconveniences of these scambling reports, they will make us to appear to posterity for a parcel of blockheads.” – Holt C.J., Slater v. May, 2 Raymond 1072 (1704)


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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