Rare Books Blog

November 28, 2010

 The newest galleries in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site feature two of the most heavily illustrated books in the history of legal literature, both by the Flemish jurist Joost de Damhoudere (1507-1581). Both were also among the most popular law books of their time, going through numerous editions in several languages.

Damhoudere’s Praxis rerum criminalium became the standard handbook of criminal law in northern Europe. We recently acquired the first edition, published in Louvain in 1554 under the title Enchiridion rerum criminalium. Our Flickr gallery, Enchiridion Rerum Criminalium (1554), presents all 54 of its woodcuts, which illustrate specific crimes and criminal procedure and also serve as documents of daily life in early modern Europe. Below is my personal favorite, illustrating the crime of dumping one’s garbage on passers-by. Praxis rerum criminalium was published 36 times between 1554 and 1660, and was translated from Latin into Dutch, French, and German.

The other gallery, Practique iudiciaire et causes civiles (1572), contains the 17 woodcuts from Damhoudere’s Practique iudiciaire et causes civiles (Antwerp, 1572), including the portrait of the author at right. It is the only French edition of Damhoudere’s Praxis rerum civilium, which was appeared in 14 editions between 1567 and 1660.

These two works must owe much of their popularity to their usefulness, but perhaps their illustrations also played a role in making them attractive to buyers. I know of few other early law books with so many illustrations, and none with such lively ones.


Rare Book Librarian

November 10, 2010

I have added several more images of Justitia (or Lady Justice, if you prefer) to the Justitia gallery in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. Below is one of them, taken from no. 3 of the Bollettino delle leggi della Repubblica Romana (Rome, 1798-1799).

Among the motives for building the Justitia gallery are the new book by Yale law professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis, Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms, due out shortly from the Yale University Press, and the Spring 2011 seminar on the same topic that Professors Resnik and Curtis will be teaching. The book features over 220 illustrations, including five taken from books in our Rare Book Collections, which are featured in our Representing Justice gallery.

In several recent posts in the Rechtsgeschiedenis blog, my Dutch colleague Otto Vervaart has written three recent posts on the value and use of legal iconography for historical research. These posts also provide a number of useful links to online resources for legal iconography. These links (and more) can also be found on the Digital Collections page of Vervaart’s Rechthistorie website. One of these resources, the Dutch Database for Legal Iconography (NCRD) at the National Library of the Netherlands, is currently restricted to library pass holders, but a librarian there has told me that early in 2011 the database will be opened to all users. Watch this space for an announcement.


Rare Book Librarian

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