Rare Books Blog

Portrait of Cinque, from Documents relating to the Africans taken in the Amistad (1840)
February 1, 2018

In honor of Black History Month, the Lillian Goldman Law Library is pleased to make publicly available one of the most comprehensive contemporary accounts of the case of the Amistad captives. Documents Relating to the Africans Taken in the Amistad was originally published as a 16-page special issue of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, a monthly newspaper published in New York City by the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

Dated December 1840, the “Extra” begins with a lengthy account of the Amistad incident by Judge William Jay, one of the society’s founders. It reprints court documents, official correspondence, and records from the Spanish and British governments. In addition there are biographical sketches of the captives, and a facsimile reproduction of a letter from one of the youngest captives, Ka-Le, to Lewis Tappan, the society’s founder.

Documents Relating to the Africans Taken in the Amistad is one of several historic publications in the American Trials section of the Yale Law Library Special Collections documents collection, part of eYLS, the Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository.

ConnecticutHistory.org has put together a thorough guide to online resources on the Amistad case.

To find all of the Law Library’s holdings on the Amistad case, do a subject search for “Amistad (Schooner)” in our online catalog, MORRIS.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

November 14, 2017

This is the last week to see our landmark exhibition, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” at the Grolier Club in New York City. It will be on display through Saturday, November 18, at the Grolier Club’s ground-floor gallery at 47 East 60th Street, just a few steps away from Park Avenue. See the exhibition that has has been praised as “fascinating” by the New Yorker, “eye-opening” by the Wall Street Journal, “courageous” by the Frankfurter Allegemaine, and “exceptional” by New Criterion.

However, if a trip to New York City is impossible, there are other options:

Mark S. Weiner, my co-curator, and I have provided a virtual tour of the exhibition in the Concurring Opinions blog. Mark has provided a gateway to the eleven-part tour in his Worlds of Law blog.

The 220-page exhibition catalogue, Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection (2017), contains full-color images of each of the 140 volumes on display, along with the captions, indexes, and introductory essays by Mark Weiner, Jolande Goldberg (Law Library of Congress), Erin Blake (Folger Shakespeare Library), and yours truly. Yale library patrons can check out a copy, and copies are available for sale from Talbot Publishing; details here.

In addition, the companion exhibition, “Around the World with Law’s Picture Books,” is on display until December 15 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (Sterling Law Building, 127 Wall Street, New Haven). My co-curator on this exhibition is Emma Molina Widener.

I take this opportunity to thank some of the folks who have helped make these two exhibitions possible, beginning with my co-curators Mark S. Weiner and Emma Molina Widener. Others deserving special thanks include:

  • Irene Tichenor (Committee on Public Exhibitions) and Jennifer Sheehan (Exhibitions Manager) of the Grolier Club for providing the space, their encouragement, their advice, and their assistance.
  • John Robinson Block, whose generous gift funded the production of the five exhibition videos.
  • Greg Talbot and Valerie Horowitz of Lawbook Exchange for publishing such a lovely and substantial exhibition catalogue.
  • Shana Jackson (Administration), Tom Fitzgerald (Administration), and Lisa Goodman (Associate Law Librarian for Administration), Lillian Goldman Law Library, for the myriad tasks involved in staging the public programs.

I owe a special thanks to Teresa Miguel-Stearns, Director of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, to Director Emeritus Blair Kauffman, and Associate Law Librarian Fred Shapiro for what may have seemed like a crazy idea, a collection of law books with illustrations, and to the late, great professor Morris L. Cohen for providing me with much-needed validation.

Last but not least, I extend my profound gratitude to the Charles J. Tanenbaum Fund (Yale Law School) and to the Pine Tree Foundation and its director, Szilvia Szmuk-Tanenbaum, whose generous support made these exhibitions possible.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

October 27, 2017

Visual Culture and Legal Norms:
What Can We Learn from Law’s Picture Books?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
12:00 - 1:30pm
Room 127, Sterling Law Building

Over the past decade, the Lillian Goldman Law Library has assembled a unique collection of over fifteen hundred illustrated law books, spanning eight centuries and six continents. The collection is the subject of two ongoing exhibitions, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection” at the Grolier Club in New York City through November 18, and “Around the World with Law’s Picture Books” in the Law Library through December 15. How do these illustrations provide windows into legal norms and aspirations? Join exhibit curators Mike Widener (Rare Book Librarian) and Mark Weiner ‘00 (legal historian, Professor of Law at Rutgers), together with Judith Resnik (Arthur Liman Professor of Law) and Laura Wexler (Professor of American Studies) for a lively discussion.

The event is sponsored by the Lillian Goldman Law Library, the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law, the Yale Women Faculty Forum, and Public Humanities at Yale.

Lunch will be served. Following the talks, Widener will give a guided tour of “Around the World with Law’s Picture Books,” which he co-curated with Emma Molina Widener.

Widener and Weiner will be giving their final lunchtime gallery tour of the Grolier Club exhibition on Thursday, November 2, 1:00 - 2:00pm at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York City. The Grolier Club exhibition has been praised as “fascinating” by the New Yorker, “eye-opening” by the Wall Street Journal, and “courageous” by the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

One final notice: Weiner & Widener are conducting a virtual tour of the “Law’s Picture Books” exhibition at the Concurring Opinions blog.

Sir Edward Coke
October 26, 2017

The largest gift of rare books in recent memory arrived this weekend with the 2017 Yale Law School Alumni Reunion. The Lillian Goldman Law Library was honored to receive the collection of early English law books assembled by Professor Robert H. Freilich. He made the gift to mark the 60th anniversary of his graduation from Yale Law School in 1957.

Highlights of the collection include:

  • Bracton’s De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (1569).
  • Glanville (1604).
  • Britton (1640).
  • Kitchin’s Jurisdictions (1657).
  • Littleton’s Tenures (1671).
  • Coke’s Institutes, First Part (1639), Second Part (1671), Third Part (1648), and Fourth Part (1648).
  • Coke’s Three Law Tracts (1764).
  • Coke’s Reports, Fourth Part (1604), and Quinta Pars (1607).
  • Fitzherbert’s Novel Natura Brevium (1635).
  • Blackstone’s Commentaries (1774).

Professor Freilich credits the inspiration to collect early English law books to the course he took on “Future Interests” taught by Professor Ashbel Green Gulliver in 1956. As Professor Gulliver wrote in Cases and Materials on the Law of Future Interests (1959):

“This is the oldest living graduate of our law. Unusual devotion to stare decisis and the theory of adoption of English common law have resulted in the retention in American jurisdictions of concepts formulated long ago on the other side of the Atlantic. … [I]t is impossible to understand modern law, whether changed or unchanged, without a fairly thorough comprehension of the English evolution down through the centuries.”

The opportunity to begin collecting early English law presented itself in London several years later, when Freilich was a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. He came across Frognal Rare Books, operated by the late Lady Edith Finer, and began buying the most significant early works on English law, especially land law.

As a Professor of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Professor Freilich taught the three branches of property (Estates and Future Interests; Transactions; and Land Use) from 1968 to 2004. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2005, he continues to teach separate courses in Future Interests and Land Use at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law as a Visiting Professor. His publications include Land Use: Cases and Materials (7th ed. 2017) and From Sprawl to Sustainability: Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Green Development, and Renewable Energy (2nd ed. 2010).

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is grateful for Professor Freilich’s splendid gift, and eager to place it at the service of the Yale Law School’s legal history curriculum.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Professor Robert Freilich (far right) talks to his classmates from the Yale Law School Class of 1957 about the collection of early English law books he donated to the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

September 11, 2017

Two new Yale Law Library exhibits…

Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection

Around the World with Law’s Picture Books

Most people would not look for illustrations in law books. However, two exhibitions from the Yale Law Library challenge the stereotype of legal literature as a dreary expanse of dry text.

“Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” opening September 13 at the Grolier Club in New York City, features 140 books and manuscripts containing a surprising and beguiling range of images that symbolize, describe, teach, argue, or criticize the law. It is curated by Michael Widener, the Law Library’s rare book librarian, and Mark S. Weiner, a legal historian, filmmaker, and professor on leave from Rutgers Law School, who blogs at WorldsOfLaw.com.

A companion exhibition, “Around the World with Law’s Picture Books,” is at the Yale Law Library in New Haven, Connecticut, through December 15, and showcases illustrated law books from fifteen countries on six continents in ten different languages. It is curated by Michael Widener and Emma Molina Widener.

The two exhibitions draw on a unique collection of over a thousand volumes assembled in the past decade by Michael Widener, the Yale Law Library’s rare book librarian. They were originally published for lawyers, law students, lay readers, and even children. Often they were tools in the workshops of legal practice. “These images provide insight into ideas about the nature of law and justice, and also about the image of the law and the legal profession, in the eyes of the profession itself and the general public,” writes Widener. Today they will surprise and delight both book lovers and the legal community.

Accompanying the Grolier Club exhibition are five short videos created by Weiner through his production company Hidden Cabinet Films:

The Grolier Club exhibition was made possible through the support of the Charles J. Tanenbaum Fund, Yale Law School, and a generous gift from the Pine Tree Foundation. The videos were funded with a generous gift from John Robinson Block.

A 220-page, full-color catalogue of “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection” is available from Talbot Publishing, and can be ordered via this link. It includes essays by Widener, Weiner, Jolande Goldberg (Law Library of Congress), and Erin Blake (Folger Shakespeare Library).

“Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection” is on display September 13 - November 18 in the Grolier Club’s main gallery at 47 East 60th Street in New York City. The gallery is open 10am to 5pm Monday - Saturday except holidays, and admission is free. Widener and Weiner will be conducting exhibition tours on September 21, October 5, and November 2, 1-2pm.

“Around the World with Law’s Picture Books” is on view through December 15 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School (Level L2, Sterling Law Building, 127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). It is open to the public 10am-6pm daily except holidays.

For more information, contact Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian, phone (203) 432-4494, email <mike.widener@yale.edu>.

August 16, 2017

Final preparations are underway for our major exhibition, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” curated by myself and Mark Weiner (Yale Law Class of 2000). It will display 140 books, drawn exclusively from the Yale Law Library’s collections, at the Grolier Club in New York City. While the exhibition won’t open until September 13 - November 18, the full-color, 220-page catalogue of the exhibition is available now. Here is the announcement from Talbot Publishing, the publishing arm of Lawbook Exchange:

“Illustrated law books” may seem like an oxymoron. After all, law is conceptual, analytic, and so very wordy! Yet for the past decade, over a thousand illustrated law books have been assembled in the Yale Law Library – spanning eight centuries and four continents. Law’s Picture Books began as a major exhibition of that collection at the Grolier Club in New York City, curated by Rare Book Librarian Michael Widener and legal historian Mark S. Weiner. In challenging the stereotype of legal literature as a dreary expanse of dry text, this book will surprise and delight both bibliophiles and members of the legal community.

This handsome full-color book is enhanced by the essays “Collecting Yale Law Library’s Picture Books,” (Michael Widener), “Reflections on an Exhibition,” (Mark S. Weiner), “Ars Memoria in Early Law: Looking Beneath the Picture,” (Jolande E. Goldberg, Law Library of Congress), and “Law’s Picture Books and the History of Book Illustration,” (Erin C. Blake, Folger Shakespeare Library).

Details on purchasing a copy are available on the Talbot Publishing website. My thanks to Greg Talbot, president of Lawbook Exchange, and Valerie Horowitz, managing editor, for making this publication possible. Thanks also to my co-curator and co-author, Mark Weiner, as well as to Jolande Goldberg and Erin Blake for their excellent essays.

In addition, a companion exhibition, “Around the World With Law’s Picture Books,” will be on display in the Yale Law Library September 1 - December 15, curated by myself and my wife, Emma Molina Widener. It will showcase the geographic scope of our illustrated law book collection, in contrast to the functional approach in the Grolier Club exhibition.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

August 8, 2017

Preparations for our upcoming exhibition, “Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection,” together with two overseas trips, have kept me from the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog for a while.

“Law’s Picture Books,” curated by me and Mark S. Weiner, opens on September 13 at the Grolier Club in New York City, and will be on display through November 18. It will feature 140 illustrated law books from our Rare Book Collection.

Additional details are coming, including a schedule of programming associated with the exhibition. I gave a preview of the exhibition when I delivered the 2017 Rare Books Lecture at the University of Melbourne Law School on May 18. The lecture is now available in a video online.

A special thanks to Carole Hinchcliff, Law Librarian at the University of Melbourne, for the honor of the invitation and the splendid hospitality. It was one of the highlights of my career.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

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