One of my favorite books in our collection is featured in the July/August issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine. Justin Zaremby (Yale Law School Class of 2010) wrote “Marginalia” about a heavily annotated copy of Sir Edward Coke’s First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England (1633), commonly known as Coke on Littleton. Zaremby was the lead curator on our recent exhibit, “Life and Law in Early Modern Europe.” Read the complete article here.
In his article, Zaremby notes that “Marginalia allowed lawyers to update their printed books with references to recent cases, statutes, and treatises.” Coke’s infamously dense and erudite work is itself a collection of marginalia or glosses on the early classic of English property law, Thomas Littleton’s Tenures. A contemporary of Coke’s, John Aubrey, joked that “The world expected from him a Commentary on Littleton’s Tenures; and he left them his Common-place book.” One of this volume’s annotators was Samuel Butler (1612-1680), author of Hudibras, a satire on the Puritans that was one of the best-sellers in late 17th-century England. A later owner was H. Buxton Forman (1842-1917), who collaborated with Thomas J. Wise on some of the most notorious literary forgeries of modern times.
I first saw this fascinating book a couple of years before my arrival at Yale, and I was thrilled to be able to finally acquire it in 2009. I’m even more thrilled that Justin put it to such good use.
Rare Book Librarian