The newest gallery in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site is “Portraits: legal authors.” At present it contains the portraits of 30 authors, with more being added as opportunity allows. All the portraits come from printed books in the Law Library’s rare book collection
The star of the gallery is the portrait at right, of Paolo Attavanti (1445?-1499), generally considered to be the very first author portrait to ever appear in a printed book. The woodcut appears in a summary of canon law that Attavanti authored, Breviarium totius juris canonici (Milan: Leonhard Pachel and Ulrich Scinzenzeler, 28 Aug. 1479). As such, it is the granddaddy of the author photos on today’s dust jackets.
Attavanti was a monk of the Servite Order and a well known Florentine theologian. His Lenten sermons, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, were published by Pachel and Scinzenzeler a few weeks after the Brevarium with the same portrait.
The “Portraits: legal authors” gallery joins three other portrait galleries in the Flickr site: portraits of Hugo Grotius, portraits of Modena jurists published in Dottori Modonesi (Modena, 1665), and portraits of Italian jurists in Illustrium iureconsultorum (Rome, 1566?).
For a guide to finding legal portraits online, you can do no better than “The telling image: searching for portraits of lawyers”, a recent post on the Rechtsgeschiedenis Blog by my friend and colleague Otto Vervaart. In his typically thorough and informative fashion, Vervaart reviews portrait collections on both sides of the Atlantic and gives helpful suggestions on search strategies.
– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian