Rare Books Blog

April 23, 2014

A team of Yale University Library conservators will present “The Surface of Things: Using New Imaging Techniques to Study Bookbindings and Other Cultural Objects” on Wednesday, April 23, 2-3pm, in the Sterling Memorial Library Lecture Hall. They will demonstrate how Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) offers exciting new possibilities for safely capturing a book’s surface decorations, revealing details that cannot be seen using traditional methods or the naked eye.

The speakers are Chief Conservator Christine McCarthy and Conservation Assistants Fionnuala Gerrity and Ansley Joe, from Yale University Library’s Conservation & Exhibition Services.

The talk, sponsored by the Lillian Goldman Law Library, is in conjunction with a Law Library exhibit, “Reflections on Bindings: Using New Imaging Technology to Study Historical Bindings.” In the exhibit, RTI was applied to the study of bindings from the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.

The exhibit is on display through May 24, 2014, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery on Level L2 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Samuel Blackerby, THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE HIS COMPANION (London, 1711).
April 21, 2014

Among the 363 English law titles the Lillian Goldman Law Library acquired from Anthony Taussig, by far the largest group is justice of the peace (JP) manuals. Taussig wrote to me that “I have pursued justice of the peace manuals because from a very early date they provide interesting overviews, constantly revised, of the areas of law of contemporary importance.”

In the preface to his Office and authority of a justice of peace (London, 1704), William Nelson gives a colorful synopsis of the office’s roots in the Middle Ages: “The Office of a Justice of Peace did at first consist chiefly in suppression of Riots and unlawful Assemblies, it being usual in former times for men of Estates to give Liveries every Year to rude and disorderly people who were not their Menial Servants, and this was to engage them in all their Quarrels for that Year…”

From the JP’s origins in criminal law, the office grew to become the most important in local government, with extensive judicial and administrative powers. Although Justices of the peace were drawn from the local elite, few them had legal training. Thus the need for guidance, met by the JP manual. As Parliament frequently changed the duties of JPs, new JP manuals and form books were published with the updated information. JP manuals became consistent best sellers for their publishers.

We have covered some of the authors of JP manuals in previous posts on the Taussig Collection: William Lambarde, whose Eirenarcha Is considered the best JP manual of the 16th century; William Sheppard; and Giles Jacob.

The highlight of the Taussig JP manuals is the very first printed JP manual:

The book of justices of peace (London, 1506)

The boke of iustyces of peas (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1506). This anonymous work went through over thirty editions in the 16th century, under various titles. It was never adequately updated and soon became obsolete.

Other JP manuals from the Taussig Collection include…

Anthony Fitzherbert (1470-1538), Loffice et auctoryte des justyces de peas (London, 1538). This is the first edition of Fitzherbert’s popular JP manual, but the only edition in Law French. There were ten editions of English translation, three of which we acquired from Taussig to join the two we already had. The Taussig acquisition also included four of the six expanded editions of Fitzherbert’s JP manual prepared by Richard Crompton.

Michael Dalton, The countrey iustice: containing the practise of the iustices of the peace out of their sessions (London, 1619). Dalton’s Country Justice went through 20 editions, the last in 1746, and was often plagiarized for other JP manuals. This second edition is one of five we acquired from Taussig.

Forms for proceedings on such seizures, as by the late act for preventing frauds, &c. in the publick revenues, are to be heard and determined by justices of the peace (London, 1720). This form book for JPs is one of the rarest items in the Taussig Collection; the only other known copies are at the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.

To learn more about the history of justice of the peace manuals, see:

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

William Sheppard, THE PRESIDENT OF PRESIDENTS (London, 1677)
April 16, 2014

William Sheppard (1595-1674) was born in a small Gloucestershire village on the Severn estuary, where he spent much of his life as country lawyer. However, this did not keep him from becoming “one of the most prolific” legal writers of the 17th century (Matthews, 1984, p. 5) and legal adviser to Oliver Cromwell. In a career spanning more than half a century, he wrote twenty-seven books: twenty-three on such legal topics as property, law enforcement and common law, and four religious tracts (Matthews, 1984, p. 72).

Sheppard’s first book, The Offices and Duties of Constables, published in 1641, was a law enforcement manual, in which he expressed his belief that an orderly and ethical society is founded on the character and skills of those elected to positions of authority. His next book, The Touchstone of Common Assurances (1648), was a collection of essays on the law of conveyance and is his best-known work. This book was used by law students and lawyers for the next two hundred years.

In 1649, his first religious tract, Of the Foure Last and Greatest Things, was released and was quickly followed by A New Catechism. In Of the Foure, Sheppard, a Calvinist, provided instruction for pious behavior and wrote of his support of the Rump Parliament. In 1651, Sheppard published his first legal encyclopedia, The Faithful Councellor, which was the result of a Rump Parliament edict that all legal records and literature be translated into English. His third religious tract, The People’s Priviledge and Duty, published in 1652, addressed the issue of whether laymen should be allowed to preach; Sheppard argued that laymen should be allowed to preach and called for the repeal of ordinances forbidding it.

His religious tracts might have brought him to Cromwell’s attention, which eventually led to his employment as a legal consultant (Matthews, 1984). In the spring of 1654, Cromwell assigned Sheppard the task of formulating a plan for law reform from which was born his most important work, England’s Balme; a collection of law reform proposals. Many of these proposals were presented to Parliament as bills; they touched on such issues as reconstruction of the judicial system, recovery of debt, and improvement of local government. After the publication of England’s Balme, Cromwell promoted Sheppard to Serjeant-at-Law. According to biographer Nancy L. Matthews, this was the “supreme moment of Sheppard’s career in Cromwell’s service” (1984, p. 59).

As it stands, the Lillian Goldman Law Library holds a representative sample of all twenty-three of Sheppard’s law books. However, the library lacks twenty or so editions of his books. For instance, the library currently holds eight of ten editions of The Touchstone of Common Assurances.

If you’re interested in learning more William Sheppard and Law Reform, see:

– Kim L. Castellano, Library Intern

Kim Castellano is completing her studies for a Master’s in Library Science at St. John’s University.

First edition of William Sheppard’s Touch-stone of Common Assurances (London, 1648), his most popular work.

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