Rare Books Blog

Printing and the Mind of Man
December 19, 2018

‘Tis the season for making lists. One popular way of taking stock of the past year is through lists of the year’s “greatest hits.” My colleague Fred Shapiro recently issued the 2018 edition of his annual list of most notable quotes, and lists of the year’s best (or worst) books and movies abound.

“All time greatest” lists are also popular and even useful pastimes. The book world is well supplied with such lists. Perhaps the most influential is Printing and the Mind of Man (2nd ed. 1983), which began as the catalogue of a 1963 exhibition in London. It has become a guide and yardstick for collectors.

For those who prefer round numbers for their lists, the Grolier Club has produced several “Grolier hundred” bibliographies, in conjunction with exhibitions, showcasing the 100 most famous books in fields including science, medicine, children’s literature, and English literature.

So what are legal literature’s greatest hits? We have a few lists to choose from. “Five books stand out pre-eminently in the history of English law,” wrote Sir William Holdsworth in Some Makers of English Law (1966):

  1. Ranulf de Glanvill, Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie (late 12th century, first print edition 1554)
  2. Henry de Bracton, De legibus & consuetudinibus Angliae (13th century; first print edition 1569)
  3. Thomas Littleton’s Tenures (1st ed. 1482)
  4. Sir Edward Coke, The first part of the Institutes of the lawes of England (1st ed. 1628)
  5. Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1st ed. 1765-69)

For American law, we have the list of ten greatest American law books compiled by legal historian Bernard Schwartz in A Book of Legal Lists (1997):

  1. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, The Federalist (1788)
  2. James Kent, Commentaries on American Law (1826-30)
  3. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833)
  4. Thomas M. Cooley, A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations which Rest upon the Legislative Power of the American Union (1868)
  5. Christopher Columbus Langdell, A Selection of Cases on the Law of Contracts (1871)
  6. Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Common Law (1881)
  7. Benjamin N. Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921)
  8. Jerome N. Frank, Law and the Modern Mind (1930)
  9. James C. Carter, Law: Its Origin, Growth and Function (1907)
  10. Richard A. Posner, Economic Analysis of Law (1973)

The 424 entries in Printing and the Mind of Man (PMM) include nine law books:

  1. Justinian’s Institutes (1468), PMM 4
  2. Littleton’s Tenures (1482), PMM 23
  3. Bracton’s De legibus & consuetudinibus Angliae (1569), PMM 89
  4. Grotius’ De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625), PMM 125
  5. Coke on Littleton (1628), PMM 126
  6. Montesquieu’s De l’Esprit des Loix (1748), PMM 197
  7. Beccaria’s Dei Delitti e delle Pene (1764), PMM 209
  8. Blackstone’s Commentaries (1765-69), PMM 212
  9. The Federalist (1788), PMM 234

The most wide ranging and comprehensive list I’ve seen is The Formation and Transmission of Western Legal Culture: 150 Books that Made the Law in the Age of Printing (Serge Dauchy et al. eds., 2016).

I find all of these lists interesting, useful (for teaching and for collection development), and unavoidably debatable. Their capacity for provoking debate is in fact one of their virtues. My primary objection to all these law lists is that they exclude tools such as law dictionaries and abridgments, practical literature such as form books, and legislative works such as the Code Napoleon, all of which have had enormous influence on the law, the law’s practitioners, and the law’s subjects. In addition, none of them venture outside the confines of western civilization.

In devising a new list, issues would include:

  • Chronological limits.
  • Geographic boundaries.
  • Size. (I’m partial to 100).
  • What constitutes a “book”? Does Magna Carta or the U.S. Constitution qualify?
  • What constitutes a “law book”?
  • Do we include codes or other legislative works?
  • Do we include tools such as law dictionaries, abridgments, form books, or practice guides?
  • What constitutes “great” or “influential”?

Finally, there is the question of who does the selection. I’m in favor of a mixed group of librarians, historians, collectors, and practitioners. If the discussion doesn’t produce a bibliography or an exhibition, it would at least be fun.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Signature of Seth Staples on an early Connecticut law book
November 27, 2018

In this Thanksgiving season, one recent gift the Lillian Goldman Law Library is thankful for is a pair of books that were part of the Yale Law School’s original library. Sold by the law school as duplicates 145 years ago, they returned last year as a gift from the estate of John Edwin Ecklund (Yale ‘38, Yale Law ‘41) via his widow, Constance Ecklund.

The two volumes are intimately tied to the history and growth of the Yale Law School and its law library.

Acts and laws of His Majesty's English colony of Connecticut in New-England in America, 1750

Acts and Laws of His Majesty’s English Colony of Connecticut in New-England in America (New-London: Timothy Green, 1750) bears the bold signature of Seth P. Staples (1776-1861), the first instructor in the private law school that evolved into the Yale Law School. On the flyleaf Staples wrote “Bought at the Auction Room”.

Acts and laws of the state of Connecticut, 1784

Acts and Laws of the State of Connecticut, in America (New-London: Timothy Green, 1784) is inscribed on the title page by Samuel J. Hitchcock (1786-1845), Staples’ law partner and the school’s proprietor (along with David Daggett) after Staples departed for New York City in 1824. The title page also bears the crossed-out signature of the book’s first owner, Samuel Bishop (1723?-1803), who served as mayor of New Haven, chief judge of the county probate court, justice of the peace, town clerk, and Collector of the Port of New Haven.

These collections of Connecticut statutes would have been indispensable resources for Staples and Hitchcock in their law practice, for their students, and for the members of the New Haven bar who used their library. The library was the primary reason the school survived after the death of Hitchcock in 1845, when members of the bar convinced Yale to take over the school and helped raise the funds to purchase the library.

In 1869 the Yale Law School was again threatened with closure, due to the death of Professor Henry Dutton. Once again the New Haven bar was instrumental in the school’s survival, and for the same reason: access to the school’s law library. It was decided that the third floor of the new County Court House would be reserved for the Yale Law School and its library. The library began moving into its new quarters in January 1873. It was at this moment – January 30, 1873, to be exact – that these two books left the library. They bear identical inscriptions on their front pastedowns: “Yale Law School Library / Duplicate and sold to Johnson T. Platt / January 30, 1873 / Simeon E. Baldwin / Treas. Law Department”.

Yale Law School Library / Duplicate and sold to Johnson T. Platt / January 30, 1873 / Simeon E. Baldwin / Treas. Law Department

Simeon E. Baldwin (1840-1927) and Johnson T. Platt (1844-1890) were two of the three young New Haven attorneys (William C. Robinson was the third) enlisted as faculty in the rejuvenated Yale Law School. Baldwin remained on the faculty for a half century, during which he also served as chief justice and governor of Connecticut, and as president of the American Bar Association, which he helped found. Platt was a popular professor until his untimely death at the age of 47.

These two books contain the earliest evidence I have seen of weeding the collection. It wasn’t until years later that the library’s original collection became cherished as “the oldest extant mementos of the early history of the Yale Law School,” as Law Librarian Frederick Hicks wrote in 1935. It was Hicks who gathered the remnants to form the Founders Collection, now one of the crown jewels of our Rare Book Collection. By that time the original collection of 2,260 volumes had dwindled to only 386. Today, thanks to discoveries and the Ecklund gift, the Founders Collection stands at 430 volumes. As Hicks observed, “If henceforth we treat them with reverence, the contrast with their former experiences will be great. They bear the scars of use and misuse, and reflect the lean years through which the law library itself more than once has passed.”

For the early history of the Founders Collection, there is no better source than Frederick C. Hicks, Yale Law School: The Founders and the Founders’ Collection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1935), which is also available online. For the school’s 1873 move to the New Haven County Court House, see Frederick C. Hicks, Yale Law School: 1869-1894 Including the County Court House Period (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937). Both works also have thorough biographical sketches of the principal actors.

The Lillian Goldman is grateful to John Edwin Ecklund for acquiring these volumes and to his estate for sending them home.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian
 

Johannes Buno, Memoriale institutionum juris, 1672
November 15, 2018

A selection of works which use various visual devices (charts, illustrations, diagrams…) to present information in interesting ways

 
 
 
 
 

Giovanni d’Andrea. Lecture super arboribus consanguineitatis et affinitatis. Vienna: Hieronymus Vietor and Johann Singriener, 1513.

These diagrams are visual hypotheticals, presenting the student with tough legal issues involving blood relationships. Despite its relatively small size, the wide margins left enough space for a student to attempt a solution of his own.

Giovanni d’Andrea. Super arboribus consanguinitatis et affinitatis. Manuscript, Austria, 15th century.

This 15th century manuscript contains a number of related works, includes these hand-drawn and colored copies of Giovanni D’Andrea’s trees of consanguinity and affinity. Tree diagrams were a popular way to convey information about family relations in a compact, easy-to-understand way. These diagrams illustrate in just two pages what would otherwise take many pages of text to explain. They continued to be used in the era of printing - a print version of the tree on the left was the first image to appear in a printed law book.

 

Ely Warner. “A system of law in, a series of lectures, delivered, ore tenus at Litchfield (Conn.) from June 1808 to September 1809.” Volume 1 of 3.

This is a student’s notebook from a lecture at the first law school in the United States, Litchfield Law school, which opened its doors in 1773. On the left is the end of a chronological chart of different case reporters, allowing the student to quickly and easily locate a case. On the right, the notes begin with a section on municipal law.

 

Johannes Buno. Memoriale institutionum juris. Ratzburg: Nicolaus Nissen, 1672.

This confusing chart is actually designed to make it easier for students to memorize the Institutes of Justinian. It reduces the mass of information presented in the Institutes to a series of allegorical engravings keyed to passages in the text, to aid in memorization. Can you work out the meaning behind any of the images?

Giles Jacob. Tables to the Law. London: Printed by E. and R. Nutt and R. Gossling …, 1736.

This table, part of a series printed by Giles Jacob, outlines the definitions and punishments for a host of common crimes against God, the king, and the public. The large format allows it to present a variety of information in a way that is accessible and easy to display.

 

 
 

–Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

A full catalogue of the exhibit can be found here.

 
Notes on Imperatoris Iustiniani Institutionum libri IV, 1642
November 15, 2018
A selection student notebooks and marginalia
 
  
 
 
 
 
  
 
 

 
 

 
 

Imperatoris Iustiniani Institutionum libri IV. Amsterdam: Joan & Cornelis Blaeu, 1642.

This copy of Justinian’s Institutes combines a number of interesting design elements. The original text of the Institutes – in the center of the small printed page –  is surrounded by later printed commentary, or gloss. This left no room for marginal notes, which this volume’s owner rectified by interleaving the printed volume with blank pages to allow for his extensive annotations.

 

Sir Samson Eure. Doctrina placitandi, ou L’art & science de bon pleading. London: Printed by the assigns of R. and E. Atkins Esquires, for Robert Pawlet …, 1677. Interleaved with notes by Samuel Kekewich (1783).

The creation of commonplace books was once a popular method of legal study. It consisted of entering notes on case law, statutes, and lectures in notebooks under alphabetically arranged topics. The printed book here, a treatise on pleading, is organized like a commonplace book. At least a century after it was printed, its owner, Samuel Kekewich, converted it into a commonplace book by interleaving it with blank pages, giving him the space to add material of his own.

 
 

~Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

A full catalogue of the exhibit can be found here.

 

Repertorium aureum. Cologne: Heinrich Quentell, 1495.
November 15, 2018

A selection legal dictionaries and grammar books.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
  
 
 

Repertorium aureum continens titulos quinque librorum Decretalium, sive Concordantiae utriusque juris. Cologne: Heinrich Quentell, 1495.

This text consists of a mnemonic poem to help students memorize the titles of the Decretals – part of the body of canon law – and associated passages. It opens with an image of four students at the feet of their teacher who reads from a pulpit. The image is embellished with ink – perhaps by a rather bored student?

Vocabularium utriusque iuris. Venice: Fabio & Augusto Zopinos, 1581.

This “dictionary of both laws” (i.e. both Roman and canon law) went through an incredible 70 editions from its first appearance in 1472. This edition is one of many to include a how-to guide for legal studies.

 
 
The student’s law-dictionary, or, Compleat English law-expositor. London: Printed by E. and R. Nutt and R. Gossling …, 1740.

 
This law dictionary, “compiled for the instruction and benefit of students,” presents the terms in gothic or black letter type – from where we get the term black letter law – and the accompanying definitions in roman type.
 

 

Giles Jacob. A law grammar, or, Rudiments of the law. 5th edition. London: Printed by His Majesty’s Law-Printers, for W. Strahan, P. Uriel …, [1775?].

Giles Jacob was one of the most prolific legal writers of his age, publishing an incredible variety of legal works, no small portion of which were aimed at law students. His Law Grammar, presented in an inexpensive and portable volume, advertises itself directly to students, boldly claiming that “they will acquire a great deal more useful Learning in the Law, than by any of the Books yet published.”

 
 
John Rastell. Les termes de la ley. London: Printed by Eliz. Nutt and R. Gosling (assigns of Edward Sayer, Esq.)) for R. Gosling …, 1721

When Rastell first published his law dictionary in the 1520s, it was not only the first dictionary of English law, but also the first dictionary of any kind in the English language. Through nearly thirty editions over three hundred years, it was an important text for both practicing lawyers and students of the law. It presents side-by-side definitions in both Law French and English, allowing students the ability to understand the terms while also honing their grasp of both languages.

 

–Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

A full catalogue of the exhibit can be found here.

 
Lincoln's Inn
November 15, 2018

A selection of guidebooks for students engaged in the study of the law.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thomas Lane. The student’s guide through Lincoln’s Inn. 3rd edition. London: Printed for T. Lane, by Ellerton and Henderson, 1814.

 
This handy guide to Lincoln’s Inn – one of the four Inns of Court – provides a host of information about the institution to new students. It notes everything from library hours to where to find the fire extinguishers, and is accompanied by this engraved map of the building.

John Raithby. The study and practice of the law considered, in their various relations to society. London: T. Cadell, jun. and W. Davies, 1798.

This work, presented in a series of letters addressed to law students, touches on the various aspects of legal education. Its author, John Raithby, a member of Lincoln’s Inn, knew his audience well – his first letter entreats law students to stop complaining about their position, and to remember just how fortunate they really are.

 
 
 
David Hoffman. A course of legal study: addressed to students and the profession generally. 2nd edition. Baltimore: J. Neal, 1836.

Hoffman’s Course of legal study provides a syllabus for those interested in self-studying various topics in the law. Here is an outline for a course of real property. As evidence of Littleton’s enduring influence, Hoffman still recommends beginning one’s study of property law with Littleton, more than 350 years after its first publication.

 

 

–Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

A full catalogue of the exhibit can be found here.

Sir Thomas Littleton. Les tenures de Monsieur Littleton. London: Richard Tottel, 1591.
November 7, 2018

In Sir Thomas Littleton’s (1407-1481) time, materials for the study of law were scarce. Littleton orginally wrote the Tenures in order to help his son in his study of the law. It soon became the standard legal textbook on property law.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Sir Thomas Littleton. Les tenures de Monsieur Littleton. London: Richard Tottel, 1591

This edition of the Tenures is particularly well suited to the student. Its size allows it to be relatively cheap as well as portable, and the extra wide margins allow for copious note taking. This copy has clearly passed through the hands of multiple owners, each of whom had plenty of room for annotations.

 
 

Sir Thomas Littleton. Littleton’s tenures, in French and English. London: Printed by John Streater, James Flesher, and Henry Twyford [et al.], 1671.

This pocket edition presents Littleton in the original Law French side-by-side with the English translation. After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Law French became the official language of the English courts for nearly 700 years. Near the end of this period, when Law French had all but ceased to be a spoken language, bilingual volumes like this were especially popular. They allowed the student to study the content of the law while also brushing up on the language skills that were still needed.

 
 

Sir Thomas Littleton. Littleton’s tenures: with notes explanatory of the text of Littleton, and showing the recent alterations in the law. London: R. Hastings, 1846.

This student edition of Littleton’s Tenures was published in 1846 by the editors of The Law Students’ Magazine. In the preface, the editors – obviously aware of the priorities of law students – lauded their edition for removing all the obsolete parts of the text, both so that students wouldn’t get bogged down in unimportant details, but also to make the work as inexpensive as possible.

 
 

Sir Edward Coke. The first part of the Institutes of the lawes of England: or, A commentarie upon Littleton. London: Society of Stationers, 1628.
Gift of William L. Frost, Yale Law Class of 1951.

Littleton’s Tenures was the most important textbook on English property law until the appearance of Coke’s commentary on Littleton, in which Coke “shoveled out his enormous learning in vast disorderly heaps” in the margins around Littleton’s text. Coke on Littleton was the most read legal textbook in America until Blackstone, and possibly the most hated. Of his early legal studies, Justice Joseph Story remembered, “I was hurried at once into the intricate, crabbed, and obsolete learning of Coke on Littleton. … After trying to read day after day with very little success I set myself down and wept bitterly.”

 

–Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

A full catalogue of the exhibit can be found here: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/amlaw/18/

 

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