Rare Books Blog

Image of scrapbook, with manuscript postmortem accounts, newspaper clippings, and other materials
May 6, 2022

The Rare Book Collection has acquired two manuscript notebooks kept by Ludwig Freyberger, physician and early expert pathologist at the turn of the 20th century in England.   Originally from Austria, where he trained in Vienna as a physician, Freyberger was a prominent London physician and barrister-at-law at the Middle Temple.  Nominated as an expert pathologist in 1902 by John Troutbeck, Coroner for the City and Liberty of Westminster, Freyberger kept detailed notes of his postmortem investigations, recording both his own notes on the cause of death and the jury’s verdict.  Covering 1902-3 and 1908, the notebooks touch on Freyberger’s findings both in notorious trials, such as the case of George Chapman–a convicted serial killer, named as Jack the Ripper by an inspector working with the case–and in the daily trials overseen by the courts of Westminster.  Freyberger’s notes highlight the differences between the causes of death and the meanings ascribed to those deaths by the criminal justice system, for instance “wilful murder,” in the case of the woman who died from pneumonian and septic blood poisoning following an illegal abortion.

The expert witness was by no means a straightforward role in the early 20th-century British court. Freyberger’s notebooks document a moment of historical transition towards an idea of “scientific” analysis in the criminal justice system, one politicized and vocally contested by many of his fellow physicians and members of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons.  

Acquired from Jarndyce, the notebooks offer an unusual moment of insight into the view of the expert witness in an early 20th-century English court.  They also add to the Rare Book Collection’s extensive documentation of official and popular perspectives on the trial, ranging from holdings of the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Sessions through tabloid accounts of abortion, murder, and other criminal trials in popular reporting.

engraved plan of Newgate Prison, Dublin, with accompanying table
May 6, 2022

A new acquisition from Maggs: George Warner, “Paper Relating to the Prisons in Dublin” (London: Luke Hansard, 1819), with an engraved plan of Newgate Prison.

In 1819, the Dublin Alderman, George Warner, wrote this detailed survey of prison conditions in Dublin in order to criticize the proposal for a new jail.  Rather than build a new prison, Warner recommended that the sessions court meet instead on a weekly rather than fortnightly basis: “as our law presumes every one innocent until proved to be guilty of some offense, it appears to be a very desirable object that all persons should be kept as short a time in confinement before trial as the necessary forms of justice will allow.”

The work includes a detailed engraving of Newgate Prison, detailing the venereal hospital; cells, hospitals, kitchens, and yards for women, men, and felons; “dark cells”; and other aspects.  

Warner describes a state of crisis in Dublin prisons, following the terrible famine and typhus epidemic of 1817-1819, and the “general distress which has pervaded the whole country.”  This edition of the paper was printed in London, “Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 30 March 1819.”

Photograph of miniature book, shown with pencil for scale
May 3, 2022

In 1839, the English Quaker, Elizabeth Fry, published this pocket-sized devotional work, intended for distribution to women prisoners in France.  Fry was a dedicated advocate for prison reform and a founding member of the Ladies’ Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate, reconfigured in 1821 as the British Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners.   Between 1838 and 1843, Fry made five visits to European prisons.   

Published in French, and intended for women prisoners, Fry’s Textes ou sujets de méditation, pour l’année (ca. 1839) counted out the year in 365 short daily readings, with the recommendation that each be read and memorized, first thing after rising each morning.  The opening above shows the first reading, for “1 JOUR. 1 SEM. 1 Mo. (Jan. 1),” taken from Psalm 90, verse 9:  “Nous consumons nos années comme une pensée.  Ps. Xc. 9.” [Psalm 90 KJV, “We spend our years as a tale that is told.”].   Fry inscribed this copy:  “donne par [Madame] Elisabeth Fry, elle meme. Ce 25 Juillet 1839 [Given by Madame Elizabeth Fry, herself. This July 25 1839].  

Acquired from Justin Croft, the work offers an unusual instance of rehabilitative reading, as envisioned by a Quaker English woman for French women prisoners.  It adds to the Rare Book Collection’s holdings on the history of English prison reform movements, which include works such as Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon: Or, the Inspection-House (1791) and Charles Dickens’ observations on Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, published in his American Notes (1842). 

September 9, 2021

In April 1972, the French theorist Michel Foucault made a detour from a campus trip to the State University of Buffalo to visit the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York.  Attica, the prison, was by then already “Attica,” the site of the violent series of events of September 9-13, 1971.  Watched on television, read in the news, “Attica” was consumed by audiences across America and around the world. 

Fresher, More Recent Tragedies’” traces some of the responses to the events of Attica, situating them within the media history of prison observations in American popular culture.  Foucault’s visit resulted in the publication of Surveiller et punir / Discipline and Punish (1975), his statement on the relationship of state power to the control of the individual.  Following Foucault to Jeremy Bentham’s inspection principle and to Charles Dickens’ visit to the panopticonical Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, the exhibition explores the ephemeral media by which popular culture has engaged with the events of Attica and American prison culture. 

Frederick Douglass observed in 1857 that power conceded nothing without a demand.  In his Doonesbury strip for November 28, 1971, Garry Trudeau responded that power also waits for attention to turn elsewhere, to the next news cycle, and to “fresher, more recent tragedies.”

Kathryn James
Rare Book Librarian

Singularia Ludovici Romani (Paris, 1510)
May 1, 2021

The forlorn figure adorning Lodovico Pontano’s Singularia (1510) reflects some of my emotions on this, my last day as the Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library. It has been a distinct honor and privilege to work in a library that aspires to be the best academic law library in the world.

In an interview on the Yale Law School website, I was asked what makes our Rare Book Collection special to me. I’ll simply repeat my answer here:

For me, it is the human element that pervades every aspect of the collection. Books produced before the Industrial Age are handmade objects, often bearing the marks and scars of their use and their movement from one hand to another. Our collection bears the imprint of the professors and librarians who formed it, beginning with the Founders (Staples, Daggett, and Hitchcock), followed by law librarians such as Albert Wheeler, Frederick Hicks, Samuel Thorne, and Morris Cohen. It is a collection I have had the privilege of enhancing and sharing with students, faculty, and scholars, with the support and encouragement of past library directors Blair Kauffman and Teresa Miguel-Stearns, my supervisor the incomparable Fred Shapiro, and the finest academic law library staff in existence. At their best, collections such as ours are profoundly social instruments.

I will only add one more thank-you, to the librarian and scholar who inspired me to become a librarian, who collaborated with me on numerous projects, and who has been an unfailing source of advice, and support: my wife Emma Molina Martín del Campo de Widener. Un beso, mi amor.

Thanks to all whom I have worked with for a wonderful fifteen years. I’ll miss you.

Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian

Rare Book Librarian



Printer's device of Peter Schoeffer, 1476
February 25, 2021

My interest in law book illustrations has led me to study and collect other graphic elements in early printed law books. Some of the most lovely and charming of these are printers’ devices, also known as printers’ marks. A printer’s device is a trademark of sorts, serving both as a marketing tool and a copyright notice of sorts, warning potential interlopers of the printer’s property interest in the work.

I have assembled over 330 examples of printers’ devices from our Rare Book Collection in the Printers’ devices album on our Flickr site. The images are titled and sorted by place of publication - printer/publisher, year. The captions give the complete bibliographic citation for the source of the image. Most online collections of printers’ devices give the device alone, usually in black and white. I present the images in full color at the highest resolution available, making it possible to distinguish between woodcuts and engravings. I include the imprint when it is adjacent to the device, to provide additional context. The examples that follow include links to their Flickr images and to their records in our online catalog, MORRIS.

The very first printer’s device, shown above, was that of Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer, who took over Johann Gutenberg’s press. Fust was Gutenberg’s financial backer and Schoeffer was his apprentice. The device first appeared in their 1457 Mainz Psalter. Our example comes from Schoeffer’s 1476 edition of the Constitutiones of Pope Clement V (also known as the Clementines), one of the foundational texts of canon law.

The earliest printers’ devices were a variety of craftperson’s marks. Some were similar to those used by silversmiths, often in the form of monograms (here is one example), while others replicated the signs hanging at the doors of printers’ shops, which served as addresses in the time before numbered street addresses. Both these elements are incorporated in the device of Richard Tottel, the London printer who held the monopoly on English common law books in the latter 16th century, located “in Fletestrete within Temple Barre, at the signe of the hand & starre.”

Printer's device of Richard Tottel, 1556

Curiously, of the hundreds of law books that Tottel published between 1552 and 1593, his 1556 edition of Year Book cases from Michaelmas term, 4 Henry VI, is the only appearance of his printer’s device I can find.

My interest in printers’ devices grew out of efforts to collect images of Justitia in law books. I’ve amassed close to a thousand examples in the Flickr site, in illustrations as well as in decorative elements such as headpieces, tailpieces, initials, and title page vignettes (including printers’ devices). Somne printers might have used the figure of Justitia to market their books to the legal profession, but her use was never limited to law books or legal audiences. One example is the device of Wolfgang Endters, part of a family of Frankfurt printers active in the 17th century. The device appears on the title page of Marcantonio Pellegrini’s De fideicommissis (1645). As described in the excellent Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive:

This printer’s device … illustrates a life lived with perserverance by the figures representing Truth and Justice placing a crown on a skull. The Latin inscription above the device “Persevera usque ad finem et coronaberis” translates “Persevere until the end and you shall be given a crown” (cf. Revelation 2:10). A Latin motto beneath the device “Assuesce et persiste” also states “Become accustomed and persist”.

Printer's device of Wolfgang Endters, 1645

In the 16th century printers’ devices migrated from the colophons at the end of the text to the title pages, and became progressively more ornate. While the majority are woodcuts, engraved devices became increasingly common in the 17th and 18th centuries. Engravings provided much finer image detail, but were also more expensive. They required separate presses for the letterpress and the engraving, and skill by the printer to place the engraving in the correct location on the page.

There is a wonderful variety to printer’s devices. In artistic quality they range from the humble to the elegant. There are rebuses, cityscapes, religious images, allegorical images, and images from classical mythology. They are populated by printers, readers, writers, sculptors, farmers, shepherds, and sailors. The animals that appear range from the wild to the domestic to the imaginary: lions, eagles, dolphins, snakes, cows, roosters, hens, geese, dogs, cats, salamanders, griffins, and unicorns. And trees, lots of trees. Their subject matter can be whimsical, motivational, or patriotic. Images that were once legible to their viewers are now obscure. Some are miniature masterpieces.

Printers’ devices were first and foremost marketing tools. However, in looking at them as a group it is impossible to ignore their aspirational aspect. Printers had commercial ambitions, but they also sought to portray themselves as actors in the world of learning and culture.

I will conclude with just two of my personal favorites. The device of Giacomo Antonio Bagnoli appears in the third volume of Scipione Rovito’s Consiliorum seu iuris responsorum (Naples, 1669). The goggle-eyed cormorant is utterly charming, and the device as a whole, with its vigorous lines, is the perfect example of why I love woodcuts as an art form.

Printer's device of Giacomo Antonio Bagnoli, 1669

I’m a big fan of sailing ships. I immediately fell in love with the engraved device of Horace Boissat and Georges Remeurs that appears in their 1661 Lyon edition of the collected works of the Spanish jurist Antonio Gómez.

Printer's device of Horace Boissat and Georges Remeus

To research our printers’ devices I made extensive use of the CERL Thesaurus (Consortium of European Research Libraries) and the Pitts Theology Library Digital Image Archive (Emory University). I recommend both of them highly.

In closing, I realize that cropping printers’ devices from the title pages and colophons where they appear takes them out of their original context, but it also allows them to shine as gems of the graphic arts.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

P.S. If you’re interested in the decorations of early printed books, you might enjoy these other image albums on our Flickr site:

José Calvo González
September 15, 2020

“Sostener entre las manos un libro antiguo es como sustentar el tiempo.”
[“An ancient book is like a time machine in your hands.”]
     – José Calvo González

My late friend José Calvo González was not well known in the U.S., but in Portugal, Latin America, and his native Spain he was the leading scholar in the law and literature field. As Professor of the Philosophy of Law at the Universidad de Málaga, he published dozens of books and articles, among them Borges en el espejo de los juristas (2016) and El alma y la ley: Tolstói entre juristas (2010). In addition to publishing, he tirelessly promoted the work of others through collective works such as La cultura literaria del derecho: alianzas transatlánticas (2019), and in his lively blog, Iurisdictio-lex Malacitana.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to José because of his enthusiastic support for our Rare Book Collection over the years. He was directly responsible for several of my acquisitions of illustrated law. José was a committed bibliophile, and we shared an interest in the illustrated law books that I have pursued for our collection. Indeed, two of my final purchases for the Rare Book Collection are books that José alerted me to. One of these is De iure maritimo & navali (Stockholm, 1651) by Johann Loccenius. This work on comparative maritime law has a lovely added engraved title page, showing Justitia standing in the prow of a sailing ship.

The other book is the two-volume Institutiones romano-hispanae (Valencia, 1788-1789) by Juan Sala Bañuls. It came to my attention when José told me about the first edition of the work, published under the title Vinnius Castigatus, which he owned. He described it to me as an effort to “hispanicize” the commentary on Justinian’s Institutes by the Dutch jurist Arnold Vinnius, a popular textbook that was nevertheless suspect in Catholic Spain because Vinnius was a Protestant. The frontispiece shows Justitia handing the Siete Partidas (the medieval Spanish law code) to the Spanish king and the Institutes to the Roman emperor. José captioned the image, “Con la justicia se afirma el trono” (“Justice affirms the throne”), i.e. that justice is the basis for the monarch’s authority and for law in general. As a visual metaphor for the importance of legal literature, the image has few equals.

José also had an eye for law-related popular and children’s literature. Thanks to him, our Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection has El Juez (“The Judge”), part of the popular Lucky Luke series of comic books by the Belgian cartoonist Morris, in both a Spanish translation and the original French. Other titles José led me to included Les arrêts illustrés (2017) by Astrid Boyer, and a 4-volume set of Les tribunaux comiques by Jules Moinaux (1882-1889).

Although José Calvo’s main work was in law and literature, he made a number of significant contributions to book history. Letra y duelo: imprentas de viudas en Málaga (siglos XVII-XIX), the catalogue of an exhibition he organized in 2009, is an innovative study of the role of women in printing and publishing in early modern Málaga. The catalogue is now available online, thanks to the Ayuntamiento de Málaga. In another exhibition catalogue, El derecho escrito: la cultura del libro e impresos jurídicos en las colecciones privadas malagueñas, siglos XVI-XIX (2005), he studied legal culture of the 16th-19th centuries through the books that local jurists left behind. In addition, he marked the 30th anniversary of his law school at the Universidad de Málaga with a catalogue of their rare book collection, In theatro librorum: fondo antiguo en la Blblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho (2009). All three are gifts to the Law Library from their distinguished author.

In addition to supporting our Rare Book Collection with gifts and guidance, José was a tireless supporter of our public programming, giving wide publicity to our exhibitions and publications through his blog. He took great pleasure in encouraging and promoting the work of others. The Law Library and I are among many, many individuals and institutions who are indebted to him for his enthusiastic support.

José and I were friends for twenty years, yet I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person until his visit to the Law Library exactly one year ago. Along with his friends and my wife, we spent several wonderful hours with the books in our Rare Book Collection. It was a long-awaited and memorable event, one of the highlights of my career. I regret that there won’t be another.

Adiós, hermano.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

José Calvo González (seated) with friends in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room, 14 September 2019. Photo courtesy of Raoul Osorio Berardinetti.

José Calvo González (right) with Mike and Emma Widener, 14 September 2019. José was moved by Emma’s story of her daughter Clara’s encounter with Jorge Luis Borges.


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