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Justice as a Sign of the Law: The Icon in the Courtroom

The engraved title page of Bernard van Zutphen’s Practycke der nederlansche rechten van de daghelijcksche soo civile als criminele (Dutch Law and Practice in Civil and Criminal Matters) depicts a crowded and lively courtroom scene. At the center, the presiding jurist is seated behind a table and beneath a small statue of Justice, who holds scales and a sword; her thin blindfold is dimly visible. The densely populated courtroom, with seats filled by men, includes some spectators focusing on the court proceedings and others chatting – with dogs at their feet.

With minor variations, this same image can be found in several other volumes of that era, all illustrating how seventeenth-century town halls served as public gathering places, and court proceedings were ordinary events.

Zutphen, Bernhard van. Practycke der nederlansche rechten van de daghelijcksche soo civile als criminele questien (Leeuwarden: G. Sijbes, 1655). Lillian Goldman Law Library.

“The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law” is curated by Judith Resnik, Dennis Curtis, Allison Tait, and Mike Widener, and is on display Sept. 19-Dec. 16, 2011, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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