Rare Books Blog

Fitzherbert, New boke of iustices of peace (1554)
April 28, 2020

If distance or the coronavirus shutdown prevented you from viewing our Spring 2020 exhibition, “Precedents So Scrawl’d and Blurr’d: Readers’ Marks in Law Books,” there is good news. The exhibition is now online, as part of the Yale University Library’s Online Exhibitions website.

The 39 volumes in the exhibition, spanning seven centuries and three continents, were selected for their research potential and for the insights they provide into the roles law books have played in people’s lives. The marks left by readers document the lived experience of the law, and remind us that law is above all a human endeavor. The exhibition is the latest in a series that examine law books as physical artifacts, and the relationships between their form and content.

The exhibition’s title comes from John Anstey’s verse satire of the legal profession, The Pleader’s Guide (1796): “Precedents so scrawl’d and blurr’d / I scarce could read one single word.”

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Sir Thomas Littleton, Les tenures du monsieur Littleton (London: Richard Tottel, 1583).

Gastaldi's treatise on quarantines
April 3, 2020

To mark the 12th anniversary of the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog, I direct your attention to a book of ours that is, unfortunately, rather timely. The book is Girolamo Gastaldi’s Tractatus de avertenda et profliganda peste politico-legalis (Bologna, 1684), a massive folio of almost a thousand pages that is considered one of the most important early treatises on quarantines.

The book publishes the text of over 260 public health regulations (in Italian and Latin) for the city of Rome, covering not only quarantines but also topics such as architectural prevention measures, public notices, food markets, hospitals, prisons, travel restrictions, beggars, cemeteries, and the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. The book also includes an account of the plague which devastated Italy in 1656, and a medical commentary on the plague.

Cardinal Gastaldi (1616-1685) wrote from experience. As the commissioner of public health under Pope Alexander VII, he was in charge of Rome’s response to the 1656 plague epidemic. His efforts were considered a resounding success because only 4,500 died in Rome (about 8% of the population), compared to the 150,000 who died in Naples and 50,000 in Genoa, representing over half of their respective populations. As a result of his work, Gastaldi received the cardinal’s hat in 1673 and was named archbishop of Benevento in 1680.

Gastaldi’s treatise adds to our collection of early Italian statutes, but those who know me won’t be surprised to learn that I acquired the book as much for its illustrations as for its text. A few of the 47 engraved plates are shown below. There is a map of the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome, and a more detailed map of the area around St. Paul’s Outside the Walls (San Paolo fuori le Mura), one of Rome’s four Papal Basilicas and the largest church in Rome after St. Peter’s Basilica. Since it was “outside the walls” of the city, St. Paul’s was considered an appropriate site for the burial of plague victims.

Of special interest are the engravings of the several gates to the city of Rome, which were critical points for enforcing the quarantine. Some of them, like the Porta San Sebastiano, are still important landmarks in Rome, while others like the Porta Angelica were demolished long ago.

For a summary of the 1656 plague in Rome and Gastaldi’s efforts, see Pierina Ferrara, “Women in Times of Plague: Economic Conditions and and Social Change in 17th Century Rome,” in I Congresso Histórico Internacional - As Cidades na História: População (2012), volume 3, pages 373-385.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Map of the Trastevere neighborhood, Rome, 1655
A map of the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome at the time of the 1656 plague epidemic, with north to the left. The gray area at the upper left is the Jewish Ghetto. See a high-resolution image in our Flickr site.

Map of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, Rome
The area around the Papal Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls (San Paolo fuori le Mura), with north at the bottom. The basilica encloses the tomb of St. Paul the Apostle. The mass graves for plague victims are marked “C” and “F”. See a high-resolution image in our Flickr site.

Porta San Sebastiano, Rome, 1655
The 1700-year old Porta San Sebastiano, sitting astride the Appian Way, was the principal gateway into the city of Rome for centuries. Today it is the largest and best-preserved gate in the Aurelian Walls.

Porta Angelica, Rome, 1655
The Porta Angelica, built in the 1560s, was once a principal entry point for pilgrims. Located just outside the northeast walls of the Vatican, it was demolished in 1888.

Gastaldi, Tractatus de avertenda et profliganda peste politico-legalis, 1684
Girolamo Gastaldi, Tractatus de avertenda et profliganda peste politico-legalis (Bologna: Manolessi, 1684).

Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair
March 25, 2020

Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair,” the joint exhibition of the Lewis Walpole Library and the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, is now available online in the Yale University Library Online Exhibitions site. The colorful exhibition documents the media frenzy provoked two centuries ago by the attempt of King George IV of England to divorce his consort Queen Caroline on the grounds of adultery.

Drawing on the Lewis Walpole Library’s strengths in graphic satire and the Law Library’s collections of trial accounts and illustrated legal texts, “Trial by Media” examines the role of print media in documenting the Queen Caroline affair and shaping public perceptions. The items range from mocking caricatures to political screeds and sober, journalistic accounts. Today these sources serve as a lens for studying gender roles, class divisions, publishing, political satire, and British politics.

In addition to digital text and images of the Fall 2019 exhibition, the digital version includes a collection of ten scholarly essays, many of which were presented at an October 4, 2019 conference in the Yale Law School. There is also a bibliography of works on the Queen Caroline Affair.

A special attraction of the online exhibit is a digital reproduction of the Humphrey Shop Album, created by prominent London satiric print publisher George Humphrey (1773?-1831?) to market prints to his clients. Virtually all of its 131 hand-colored prints are contemporary satires of the Queen Caroline scandal by artists such as George Cruikshank, Robert Cruikshank, and Theodore Lane. The survival of this shop album in its original binding is itself extraordinary, as most such albums have been broken up and sold as individual prints by later dealers. The album is one of the treasures of the Lewis Walpole Library.

“Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair” was co-curated by Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings at the Lewis Walpole Library, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library. The online exhibition was designed by Kristen McDonald of the Lewis Walpole Library.

The political queen that Jack loves: with thirteen cuts (London: Printed and published by Roach & Co., 1820). Illustrations by George Cruikshank. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Detail from Justinian's Institutes (Venice, 1476)
March 4, 2020

Books are the lawyer’s tools and the law student’s laboratory, and nothing brings this home better than the marks that they leave in their books. Over 30 such annotated and inscribed books from the Lillian Goldman Law Library are on display in “Precedents So Scrawl’d and Blurr’d: Readers’ Marks in Law Books,” the Spring 2020 exhibition from the library’s Rare Book Collection.

Exhibition curator Mike Widener, the Law Library’s rare book librarian, selected items that offer both research potential and insights into the roles that law books have played in people’s lives. The marks left by readers document the lived experience of the law, and remind us that law is above all a human endeavor.

The exhibition’s title comes from John Anstey’s verse satire of the legal profession, The Pleader’s Guide (1796): “Precedents so scrawl’d and blurr’d / I scarce could read one single word.”

Many of the volumes illustrate the work of lawyers, law students, law professors, and authors throughout the centuries. Doodles suggest the writers taking a break from dreary legal studies. Scraps of poetry can be sources for literary scholars. Readers also used their books to record events, ranging from a drunken outburst in the New Jersey assembly to a famous naval battle of the War of 1812 and the beheading of Henry VIII’s fifth queen.

These books represent a small fraction of the annotated books in the Yale Law Library’s rare book collection. They demonstrate the value of collecting these artifacts, and constitute the Law Library’s invitation to explore them further.

“Precedents So Scrawl’d and Blurr’d” is the latest in a series of exhibitions that examine law books as physical artifacts, and the relationships between their forms and content. It is on display March 2 to June 17, 2020, 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.

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

A true and perfect relation of the whole proceedings against the late most barbarous traitors (London, 1606)

This book documents the trial of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. An early owner wrote his review on the flyleaf:

This is a relation (as the Title Page calls it) and not a Tryal, for no Witnesses are produced in it — It would have been far more Satisfactory to the Reader; if the Evidence had been inserted in the manner it is [in] the State Tryals; where you have the very Words of the Witnesses, and the Cross-Examinations of them by the Prisoners. But here you have little more than the Inditements, & the Harangues of the Lords Commissioners & the Attorney General.

Dr. Cowel in his Interpreter under the word Heyreloom calls this Speech a Divine Speech.

Parte presa nell'eccellentiss. Senato, 1620, adì 9 aprile, in materia che si possi condennar alla Galea anco per manco tempo de disdotto mesi (Venice, 1620)
October 29, 2019

For the second year in a row, a publication of our Rare Book Collection has earned an award from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The exhibition catalogue for our Fall 2016 exhibition, Representing the Law in the Most Serene Republic: Images of Authority from Renaissance Venice, is the winner of the 2019 Publication Award from AALL’s Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section. The award is bestowed annually to recognize a “significant contribution to scholarly legal literature.”

The exhibition, and its catalogue, were co-authored by Christopher W. Platts and myself. Platts is presently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, and was a Ph.D. student in History of Art here at Yale when the exhibition appeared. The idea for the exhibition was Christopher’s, as was the bulk of the writing, research, and selection of items.

The catalogue explores how the Venetian Republic – a prosperous and powerful state in early modern Europe – cultivated a mythical image of stability, liberty, and beauty. Focusing primarily on the outstanding holdings of Italian law books in the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, the publication presents 25 objects of remarkable splendor and historical significance. These include illuminated manuscripts, illustrated books, prints, drawings, coins, and medals, nearly a dozen of which were borrowed from other Yale art and library collections.

The catalogue also introduces the most significant offices and symbols of the Venetian state, and explains how laws were crafted, debated, publicized, and flouted. The protagonists of the stories recounted herein are the doge (duke) and highest magistrates of Venice, the governors appointed to rule the Republic’s far-flung territories, the lawmakers in the Senate, and the lawbreakers consigned to prison or to the galleys – all of them illustrated in finely executed representations in various media.

A digital version of the print catalogue is available in the Law Library’s Yale Law School legal Scholarship Repository:
https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/itsta/7/.

The previous award from AALL was the 2018 Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award for Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection (Michael Widener & Mark S. Weiner, eds.; Clark, NJ: Talbot Publishing, 2017).

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Institutio in potestatem civitatis Bergomi data Laurentii Venerio ab Andrea Griti duce Venetiarum. 1524.

Institutio in potestatem civitatis Bergomi data Laurentii Venerio ab Andrea Griti duce Venetiarum. 1524. Manuscript on parchment. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Farmworkers' strike in California, around 1968
October 14, 2019

As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, this is an opportune moment to highlight recent acquisitions that form part of that heritage. These works illustrate the span of the Rare Book Collection’s Hispanic holdings.

The image at right comes from a bilingual pamphlet, “Right to work” laws– a trap for America’s minorities / “El derecho a trabajar”– una trampa para los minorías EE UU (Delano, California, 1968?), authored by two of the leading civil rights activists of the 20th century, Cesar Chavez and Bayard Rustin, and jointly published by the organizations they led, namely the United Farm Workers AFL-CIO and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. The pamphlet denounces “right-to-work” laws as anti-democratic, “destroying the institution of collective bargaining, and thus keeping minority workers at the bottom of the economic ladder.”

Another recent adition to our Law & Modern Social Movememts Collection is The Sleepy Lagoon Case (Los Angeles: Citizens’ Committee for the Defense of Mexican-American Youth, 1942). Following a party the night of August 2, 1942 at the Sleepy Lagoon Ranch near Los Angeles, a young man named José Díaz left the party and was later found dead on the road. A police round-up followed, and 17 Mexican American youths were convicted of murder and assault on flimsy evidence. The convictions were widely viewed as evidence of racism. The pamphlet opens with an introduction by film director Orson Welles, and closes with the exhortation: “You can help to crush the Axis Fifth Column in our midst by helping to free the 17 boys convicted in the Sleepy Lagoon Case. Much Axis propaganda has been made over these unjust convictions.”

Moving back in time is Lamentos del Sargento Ignacio Jiménez (Mexico City, 1912), a broadside of verse in which Sargent Jiménez bids his family farewell as he awaits execution for the murder of his commanding officer, and urges others to not follow his bad example. The broadside is adorned with a woodcut by the famous Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada.

A much earlier Mexican acquisition is Relación jurídica de la libertad de la muerte intentada contra la persona del R.P. Fr. Andres Picazo (Mexico City, 1769). W.S. Cotter Rare Books, who sold us this item, provides a helpful summary: “On the 11th of February, 1769, a certain Manuel Carrera, burdened with the task of arranging the repair of a watch owned by the convent of San Francisco in the city of Querétaro, approached Father Andres Picazo in his chambers at the Church of the Province of San Pedro and San Pablo of Michoacan, and, following a dispute over just what the watch required, shot, stabbed, and pistol-whipped the good Father, whose only act of defense was to pray to the Holy Image of Our Lady of Pueblito. Father Picazo survived. The present pamphlet comprises a graphic account of the assault, a thorough narrative of Carrera’s subsequent attempted-murder trial, and a history of the Lady of Pueblito as intercessor and converter of idolators.”

Early modern Spain produced some of Europe’s most influential jurists. One of these was Balthazar Ayala (1548-1584), whose De jure et officiis bellicis et disciplina militari libri III (Antwerp, 1597) argued that civilians cannot be intentionally targeted by military forces. First published in 1582, this work was reprinted in 1648 and 1793.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Caricature of Queen Caroline
September 16, 2019

Two centuries ago Queen Caroline of England was put on trial for adultery by her husband George IV, provoking an unprecedented media frenzy. Two Yale libraries, the Lewis Walpole Library and the Lillian Goldman Law Library, are marking the bicentennial of the trial with a joint exhibition, “Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair.”

The colorful exhibition is on display September 9 through December 19 in the Yale Law School. It is co-curated by Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings at the Walpole, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Law Library.

Drawing on the Lewis Walpole Library’s strengths in graphic satire and the Law Library’s collections of trial accounts and illustrated legal texts, “Trial by Media” examines the role of print media in documenting the Queen Caroline affair and shaping public perceptions. The items range from mocking caricatures to political screeds and sober, journalistic accounts. Today these sources serve as a lens for studying gender roles, class divisions, publishing, political satire, and British politics.

In connection with the exhibition, there will be a mini-conference the afternoon of October 4 in the Yale Law School, with panels focusing on the legal and media aspects of Queen Caroline’s trial. An online version of the exhibition is under preparation. In addition, many of the Law Library’s holdings on the Queen Caroline trial are represented in an album on the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.

“Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair” is on display 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.

For more information, contact Susan Walker, Head of Public Services, Lewis Walpole Library, phone (860) 677-2140 and email susan.walker@yale.edu, or Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian, Lillian Goldman Law Library, phone (203) 432-4494 and email mike.widener@yale.edu.

Pages

Subscribe to Rare Books Blog