Rare Books Blog

Guy Le Pape
October 12, 2018

When looking at a row of law books today, whether in a law library, a courthouse, or a student’s bookshelf, one might be struck by their apparent uniformity – row upon row of nearly identical volumes. This, however, was not always so. Throughout history, legal literature has taken an astounding variety of forms. Law books were more than just repositories of information, like any other tools of a trade, their use influenced their design.

This exhibit highlights the intimate connection between legal literature and legal education. It focuses on the way that the usage of one group in particular – students – helped shape both the content and the form of legal literature over the course of nearly 15 centuries of legal study.

The first case highlights three of the most important textbooks of in the history of legal education, Justinian’s Institutes, Littleton’s Tenures, and Blackstone’s Commentaries, and the various forms in which these essential texts were presented.

The second case looks at books as tools for the student – books whose form was very much a part of their function. While there were many such categories, we have selected four of particular use to law students: visual aids, notebooks, student guides, and legal dictionaries.

–Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, 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
 

Frontispiece from "Repertorium aureum" (1495)
October 4, 2018

Through the centuries, legal education has both shaped legal literature and been shaped by it. “Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education,” the latest exhibition from the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, shows how the content and design of early law books were employed by both teachers and students.

The exhibition is curated by Ryan Martins (Law 2020), Rare Book Fellow, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian.

Three books dominated legal education in Western civilization for almost fifteen centuries: Justinian’s Institutes, Littleton’s Tenures, and Blackstone’s Commentaries. The exhibition shows how publishers adapted each of these works to meet the evolving needs of law students.

The exhibition also examines four genres of legal literature that served as tools for students: visual aids, notebooks, study guides, and law dictionaries.

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, 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>.
 

The student's law-dictionary (1740)

The student’s law-dictionary, or, Compleat English law-expositor (London, 1740)..

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