Rare Books Blog

Francis Hargrave's Argument in the Case of James Sommersett a Negro (1772)
January 25, 2014

Among all the volumes our library acquired from Anthony Taussig, few hold as much historical significance or research potential as those authored or owned by Granville Sharp (1735-1813), one of the founders of the British abolition movement.

The most notable is the book pictured at left, Sharp’s own copy of Francis Hargrave’s Argument in the case of James Sommersett a Negro, lately determined by the Court of King’s Bench: wherein it is attempted to demonstrate the present unlawfulness of domestic slavery in England (London, 1772). Sommersett v. Stewart (20 State Trials 1 (K.B. 1772)) is one of the landmark cases in the abolition of slavery, with Lord Mansfield ruling that a slave became free when he set foot on English soil. James Somerset had come from Virginia with his master and sought refuge with Sharp after his escape. Sharp himself orchestrated Somerset’s defense. Sharp annotated this copy with extensive notes, some of them tipped in on separate sheets.

For more on the research potential of this outstanding little book, see “Sharp’s Numbers” in Mark Weiner’s Worlds of Law blog, which includes a video interview Mark did with me about the book.

Another of the acquisitions, Sharp’s Representation of the injustice and dangerous tendency of tolerating slavery or of admitting the least claim of private  property in the persons of men, in England (London, 1769), is considered to be the first British anti-slavery tract.

Several of the titles are products of Granville Sharp’s advocacy for Parliamentary reform and civil rights. These include A declaration of the people’s natural right to a share in the legislature (London, 1775) , where he argued for representation of the American colonies in Parliament, and The legal means of political reformation (7th ed.; London, 1780?), Taussig’s copy inscribed “The gift of the Author”.

Another volume that belonged to Sharp demonstrates his interest in Campbell v. Hall (20 State Trials 239 (K.B. 1774)), an important case involving the application of common law in England’s colonies. The volume contains two pamphlets from the trial, Campbell esq. against Hall esq.: the first argument in this cause upon the special verdict, Hilary-term, 1774 [London?, 1774?] and Lord Mansfield’s speech in giving the judgment of the Court of King’s-bench … in the cause of Campbell against Hall (London, 1775). Sharp wrote extensive notes in the margins, as shown below, and on tipped-in sheets. Modern scholars have looked to Campbell v. Hall on the question of whether Lord Mansfield’s decision in the Somerset case had any relevance for slavery the colonies; see George Van Cleve, “Somerset’s Case and Its Antecedents in Imperial Perspective,” 24 Law & History Review 601 (2006) and the accompanying commentaries. Was Sharp was asking the same question? Come see for yourself; there’s a good research paper or article lurking here.

— MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Campbell esq. against Hall esq.: the first argument in this cause upon the special verdict, Hilary-term, 1774 [London?, 1774?], showing Granville Sharp’s handwritten notes.


December 27, 2013

The Lillian Goldman Law Library’s 2013 holiday card features an image from one of this year’s acquisitions. The image is the headpiece from the opening chapter in Friar Lorenzo Mascambrone’s Degli asili de’ Christiani ragionamento (Roma: Camera Appostolica, 1731). The book is a vigorous defense of the Catholic Church’s right to grant sanctuary to fugitives, published at a time when Catholic governments were protesting that the Church was coddling criminals and traitors under the guise of sanctuary, and thus threatening public order.

In The Popes and European Revolution (1981), Owen Chadwick summarized Mascambrone’s argument: “The right to punish does not derive from revenge but must intend to reform, it is inseparable in moral law from compassion. … Sanctuaries, however they are at times misused, tend to a chance of reformation. And if this is the duty and interest of the State, how much more is it the duty of the Church? Would a mother chase away a starving child, or fail to protect it from a wild animal? How much more barbarous would bishops be if they chase out of church men who have come to them seeking refuge and comfort?”

The image reinforces the book’s argument. On the left, the female cherub is seated in peaceful Nature. She points out the scales of Justice to the male cherub, holding the fasces (symbol of the magistrate’s power) as he cowers amid the ruins of human civilization. The image recalls the words of The Federalist, No. 51: “Justice is the end of government.”

Happy New Year to all!

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Headpiece, Degli asili de' Christiani ragionamento 1731

Morris L. Cohen
December 11, 2013

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Sixth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Cohen was a leading scholar in the fields of legal research, rare books, and historical bibliography.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries and law librarianship. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., March 17, 2014.

The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for July 12-15, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal “Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books.”

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Bryan A. Garner
December 5, 2013

Bryan A. Garner, the world’s leading legal lexicographer, will give a talk on Monday, December 9, about the exhibit of association copies from his private book collection, which is currently on display in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Garner, Editor in Chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, has amassed a private collection of 36,000 books. He is particularly drawn to “association copies,” books once owned or inscribed by their authors or other significant individuals. The inscriptions, says Garner, are an “ineffable connection” with those who once signed or owned the book.

Garner’s talk is scheduled for 1pm on December 9 in Room 128 of the Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street in New Haven. A limited number of exhibit catalogues will be available for those who attend the talk.

The exhibit, “Built by Association: Books Once Owned by Notable Judges and Lawyers,” includes books inscribed by John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clarence Darrow, the most famous trial lawyer in American history. Other notable figures include Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Benjamin Cardozo, and Lindley Murray, a lawyer best known as “the father of English grammar.” Three of the authors taught at Yale Law School: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Judge Jerome Frank, and the iconoclastic Professor Fred Rodell.

Garner has been editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary since 1996. He has authored many other standard reference works in legal lexicography and legal writing, including Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (3d ed. 2011), The Elements of Legal Style (2nd ed. 2002), and The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (3rd ed. 2013). He is the co-author with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia of Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012). Garner is also the author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed. 2009), published by Oxford University Press. Garner is the owner of LawProse, which conducts seminars in legal writing around the world. He is also Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University.

Garner curated the exhibit, with assistance from Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian in the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The exhibit is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily, through December 18 on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

The boyhood days of Guy Fawkes (1895)
November 3, 2013

R.J. Lambe, The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes, or, The Conspirators of Old London (London: Edwin J. Brett Ltd., “Harkaway House”, [1895?]). Gift of the late Professor Morris L. Cohen. A specimen of the “Penny dreadfuls” genre of popular literature, from the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Nicolaus de Gijselaar, De venatione (1734)
November 2, 2013

The latest addition to our Flickr site is “Dutch legal dissertations”. This set of images is another product of my interest in illustrated law books.

The Lillian Goldman Law Library owns thousands of dissertations for doctorates in law from the 17th-18th centuries, most of them from German universities. The title pages of the German dissertations tend to be fairly plain and text-heavy (see the “German legal dissertations” set on Flickr for a taste), although the woodcut headpieces and initials can be quite pretty; you can view several examples in the “Justitia - initials” set.

However, almost all of the 18th-century Dutch dissertations have ornate engraved title pages, like the dissertation on hunting law shown here, one shown here, Dissertatio juridica inauguralis: De venatione (1734), submitted by Nicolaus de Gijselaar for his doctorate in law from Leiden University. Note that the title page is larger than the rest of the 24-page pamphlet. This is another common feature of Dutch legal dissertations. One hypothesis is that the title pages did double duty as broadsides advertising these important academic events, where the candidate would formally present his dissertation to the assembled faculty and dignitaries.

I have yet to find the same engraving re-used in another dissertation. This indicates both the prosperity of the Dutch Republic and the importance placed on the dissertations.

At this writing, “Dutch legal dissertations” contains images of only 10 dissertations, but more are on their way. I am scouring the uncataloged dissertations for additional examples.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Ordinationi e statuti della ven. Archiconfraternita di Santa Maria della Pieta in Campo Santo delle nationi teutonica, e di Fiandra (Roma: Nella stamperia della Rev. Cam. Apost., 1683).
October 27, 2013

Ordinationi e statute della ven. Archiconfraternita di Santa Maria della Pieta in Campo Santo delle nationi teutonica, e di Fiandra (1683).

This binding, 18th-century mottled calf with gilt decoration, shows the arms of Pierluigi Cardinal Carafa.  Carafa (1677-1755) had an active ecclesiastical career after receiving doctorates in Roman and canon law.  Before his death, Carafa served as the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia in Rome, and was active as a patron in the city.  The Ordinationi e statute comprise the statutes of a lay confraternity of German and Flemish nationals who provided burials and masses for their compatriots in Rome.  It is the first and only printed edition of the work. 

– Ryan Greenwood, Rare Book Fellow

“Armorial Bindings,” an exhibit curated by Ryan Greenwood, is on display from September 23 to December 18, 2013, and is located on level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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