Rare Books Blog

Law's Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection, by Michael Widener and Mark S. Weiner
May 13, 2019

A year and a half later the Law Library’s landmark exhibition, Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection, and its catalogue continue to reverberate, this time in Austria. My co-curator and co-author Mark S. Weiner had the opportunity to speak on the exhibition to a class at the University of Salzburg, and sent this report.

Law’s Picture Books in Austria—in Miniature

Earlier this month I visited Salzburg, Austria as part of the Fulbright Intercountry Lecturing Program. Fresh air, friendly people—and, yep, it really does look like “The Sound of Music”:

During my visit, I had the chance to speak about Law’s Picture Books in a class taught by Kristin Albrecht in the Department of Legal Philosophy at the University of Salzburg. The department is headed by Prof. Stephan Kirste, who had hosted me as a Fulbrighter in Salzburg back in 2015.

It was incredibly fun to talk with students, faculty, and community members about the exhibit, and to share the conceptual logic behind the work that Mike Widener and I produced. Best of all, Frau Albrecht arranged something truly special for the occasion: a visit by Renate Schönmayr, who heads up the law library. She brought a score of gorgeous treasures from her collection for everyone to hold, examine, and discuss—and, as always, books worked their magic. I mean, even in facsimile there’s nothing quite looking at the Sachsenspiegel:

Frau Schönmayr selected the books based on the conceptual organization of our exhibit: its functional division into ten separate purposes that law book illustrations serve. And Frau Alrecht helpfully printed out the names of those purposes on colorful sheets of paper and tacked them to a bulletin board at the front of the seminar room. The class was like visiting the exhibition in miniature!

There were so many delightful books for everyone to contemplate, and the room was abuzz with conversation, as well as oohs and ahhs. I was especially charmed by this image of Justicia from an ex libris plate, which Frau Schönmayr used to illustrate the exhibition case “Symbolizing the Law”:

Frau Schönmayr has built a basic search function within the Salzburg law library database that enables users to search for books by ex libris plates, making it even easier for students and scholars to pursue work in this growing field.

So here’s to one more successful collaboration between scholar and librarian, working together in the public legal humanities. With thanks to the Fulbright program.



Renate Schönmayr, director of the University of Salzburg Law Library, and Mark S. Weiner.

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