Rare Books Blog

December 22, 2009

The Lillian Goldman Law Library prides itself on having what may be the best collection of early Italian statutes in the Western Hemisphere. However, our collection will never come close to matching the superb collection of statuti at the Biblioteca del Senato della Repubblica “Giovanni Spadolini” (the library of the Italian Senate).

It was a great privilege to tour the Biblioteca del Senato and its statute collection on a recent visit to Rome, courtesy of Dr. Raissa Teodori, Head of Special Collections, and Dr. Alessandra Casamassima (Special Collections Cataloger).

L-R: Alessandra Casamassima, Emma Widener, Mike Widener, Raissa Teodori.

Dr. Teodori gave an excellent overview of the library’s special collections at the 25th Annual Pre-Conference of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)-Library and Research Services for Parliaments, in August 2009, which is available as a PDF file. In addition, there is a published guide to the collection, co-authored by Teodori, Casamassima and Dr. Sandro Bulgarelli (Director of the Biblioteca del Senato): Le Radici Della Nazione: La Storia Delle Citta Italiane Nella Biblioteca Del Senato Statuto Dei Comuni E Libri Antichi Di Storia Locale Dal XIII Al XIX Secolo (Skira, 2004).

The Senate library and its sister library from the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Biblioteca della Camera, recently moved into a common building on the Piazza Minerva, next to the Pantheon. Both libraries have superb reading rooms and a strong emphasis on service to the general public as well as to legislators.

The library’s building is itself a historic monument. Formerly the mother house of the Dominican Order, it was the site of Galileo’s trial for heresy. The adjoining church, the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, is the only Gothic church in Rome, and contains the tombs of four popes, St. Catherine of Siena, the painter Fra Angelico, and an important figure in legal history, the canonist Guillaume Durand (d. 1296), author of the Speculum iudiciale, “the most widely used procedural treatise of the Middle Ages” (Kenneth Pennington, Medieval Canonists A Bio-Bibliographical Listing).


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Piazza Minerva in Rome, with the Biblioteca del Senato on the left, the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva on the right, and Bernini’s elephant at center.

December 22, 2009

“Images of Justice” is an exhibit prepared by Seth Quidachay-Swan, who recently completed an internship in the Lillian Goldman Law Library as part of his work toward a Master’s in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University. Seth will receive his M.L.S. in January 2010, and he also has a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School (2008).

In his research for the exhibit, Seth drew on Images of Justice, 96 YALE LAW JOURNAL 1727 (1987), by Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis of the Yale Law School. This article has evolved into a book that will be out soon: Judith Resnik & Dennis Curtis, Representing Justice: From Renaisance Town Halls to 21st Century Democratic Courtrooms (Yale University Press, forthcoming 2010).

The exhibit is on display on Level L2 of the Law Library, in the wall case to the left of the door to the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room.


The image of Justice has been around for over 2000 years. Her lineage traces back to Egypt, Greece and Rome, in depictions of the goddesses Ma’at, Themis, Dike and Justitia. During the medieval period, Justice was adopted by Christian iconography as a representation of ancient virtue. Images of Justice were also common in Renaissance art and texts. Even today, Justice remains recognizable. Her image adorns many modern government buildings and court houses.

Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (Amsterdam, 1735).

Today, Justice is most recognizable as a blindfolded woman with a sword and scales. However, earlier depictions of Justice displayed a wide array of allegorical meanings. Justice’s iconic scales measure the strength of a case. Images of a dog and snake with Justice are thought to represent friendship and hatred that could corrupt judgment. Sometimes, Justice’s sword is replaced with a fasces, the Roman symbol of a judge’s power to punish. Two-faced depictions of Justice sought to dispel fears of blind justice morphing into blind fury by prudently leaving one face unblindfolded to carefully wield her sword in meting out judgments and one face blindfolded to show her impartiality in judging the merits of cases.

Joost de Damhoudere, Praxis rerum civilium (Antwerp, 1567).

Renaissance iconography often depicted Justice with her sister virtues: Prudence (looking into a mirror), Temperance (holding a bridle and water jug), and Fortitude (wearing a lion skin or carrying a broken column). This artistic tradition continued into the 17th and 18th centuries, but is rarely used today.

Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (Frankfurt, 1699).

Why is Justice so recognizable? Perhaps because Justice represents an idealized model of the legal system, with which political leaders and thinkers throughout history have sought to align themselves. For example, an image of Justice adorns a 1766 edition of Cesare Beccaria’s Dei delitti e delle pene (Of Crimes and Punishments). In this seminal work on criminal justice, Beccaria argued that punishments should be based on the injury caused to society, and that the prevention of crime was more important than its punishment. The text’s portrayal of Justice underscores Beccaria’s argument: Justice turns away from the barbaric and arbitrary punishments of medieval times in favor of a more enlightened penal code.

Cesare Baccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene (Haarlem, 1766).

 – SETH QUIDACHAY-SWAN, Southern Connecticut State University

December 16, 2009

On a recent trip to Rome I had the great professional and personal pleasure of reuniting an Italian town with an important piece of its history.

Among the volumes in our outstanding collection of early Italian statutes is a 15th-century manuscript of the statutes of Montebuono, a village about 60 km. north of Rome (see map). The manuscript was featured in our 2008 exhibit, “The Flowering of Civil Law: Early Italian City Statutes in the Yale Law Library.” The Fondazione Gabriele Berionne and its president, Renata Ferraro, were extremely helpful in supporting research on the manuscript.

In gratitude for this help, the Lillian Goldman Law Library digitized the Montebuono manuscript. I was pleased to deliver it in person to the mayor of Montebuono, the Hon. Dario Santori, during a visit hosted by Renata Ferraro on November 29. The Comune di Montebuono is actively in historic preservation activities, including the restoration of its beautiful 11th-century church, San Pietro ad Muricentum, which is built atop an ancient Roman villa that belonged to the architect of the Pantheon, Marcus Agrippa. The Fondazione Gabriele Berionne has supported these preservation efforts and published a splendid illustrated book, Montebuono e il suo territorio: storia, architetture e restauri inizia la ricerca (Mariasanta Valenti, ed.; Rome: Fondazione Gabriele Berionne, 2007), which can be consulted in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room.

For more information on Montebuono, see the Montebuono On Line website; follow the links for “Storia e Monumenti.”

My wife and I thank Renata Ferraro, her husband Giovanni Carosio, and Mayor Santori for a memorable visit, and Fiorenzo Francioli, a Montebuono official, for a learned and fascinating tour of San Pietro.


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L-R: Dario Santori (mayor of Montebuono), Emma Widener, Renata Ferraro, Giovanni Carosio, Mike Widener, Fiorenzo Francioli, and Antonella Francioli. 29 Nov. 2009 at Il Boschetto restaurant near Montebuono.

December 10, 2009

Over 50 of Professor Morris L. Cohen’s friends gathered on December 2 to honor him and the gift of his Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection to the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.

Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Law at the Yale Law School, is one of the most influential law librarians of the 20th and 21st centuries. He was the director of the Lillian Goldman Law Library from 1981 to 1991, and previously was director of the law libraries at Harvard (1971-1981), the University of Pennsylvania (1963-1971), and the University of Buffalo (1961-1963). He is the author of Bibliography of Early American Law (7 vols.; 1998- ), a landmark in legal bibliography, and numerous other treatises and articles.

In his brief remarks, Professor Cohen told how the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection began in the 1960s as a collaboration with his son Daniel, who collected early English and American children’s books. By the time he donated the collection in 2008, it contained over 200 law-related children’s books from the 18th century to the present. There is no other collection like it in the world. It provides valuable insights into how popular views of the legal system have evolved over the centuries. It also demonstrates Professor Cohen’s originality and skill as a collector.

The books themselves are simply delightful. At right is an image from one of my favorites, The Quarrel and Lawsuit Between Cock Robin and Jenny Wren (London, ca. 1840).

When Professor Cohen donated the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection, the library promised to continue adding to the collection. We have added close to a dozen additional titles so far, and look forward to adding more. The most recent acquisitions include A Modern Newsboy at the Constitution Convention: A Short Play to be Used in a Constitution Day Program for High Schools in Cooperation with the Elementary Grades by J.M. Wilkoff (Pennsylvania Historical Commission, 1937), and an illustrated biography of the famous Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius aimed at young readers, Het leven en de lotgevallen van Hugo de Groot by A.C. Oudemans (Amsterdam, 1835).

For more information on the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection, including a complete list of the books donated by Professor Cohen, see “Morris Cohen Donates Children’s Law Book Collection to Law Library” in the Yale Law School’s News & Events listings.


Thank you, Morris, for this collection and for all that you’ve done for me and the Law Library!


Rare Book Librarian

Professor Stephen Wizner, Professor Morris L. Cohen, and Gloria Cohen at the reception honoring Cohen’s gift of the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection.

December 2, 2009

The Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, presents…

“Bookbindings: What They Tell Us About Early Printed Books”
Presented by Scott Husby
December 10, 2009
1:10 - 2:00 p.m.
Sterling Law Building, Room 129

Since 1999 Scott Husby has been working on an ambitious project to locate, record, and identify contemporary bookbindings on incunables (15th-century printed books) in North American collections. His talk will describe the project and share some of the findings that have come out of his research, including some of his discoveries in the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.

Scott Husby has been a bookbinder and book conservator for 35 years. He has carried out book conservation projects at the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Freer and Sackler Museums at the Smithsonian, and from 1996 through 2007 was the Rare Books Conservator for Princeton University. Over the last two years he has been devoting full time to a long-term project of recording bookbindings on early-printed books.

At right: Decretales Gregorii IX (Venice: Andreas Torresanus, de Asula, 1482), Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library. Contemporary Italian binding.

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