Rare Books Blog

Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair
March 25, 2020

Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair,” the joint exhibition of the Lewis Walpole Library and the Lillian Goldman Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, is now available online in the Yale University Library Online Exhibitions site. The colorful exhibition documents the media frenzy provoked two centuries ago by the attempt of King George IV of England to divorce his consort Queen Caroline on the grounds of adultery.

Drawing on the Lewis Walpole Library’s strengths in graphic satire and the Law Library’s collections of trial accounts and illustrated legal texts, “Trial by Media” examines the role of print media in documenting the Queen Caroline affair and shaping public perceptions. The items range from mocking caricatures to political screeds and sober, journalistic accounts. Today these sources serve as a lens for studying gender roles, class divisions, publishing, political satire, and British politics.

In addition to digital text and images of the Fall 2019 exhibition, the digital version includes a collection of ten scholarly essays, many of which were presented at an October 4, 2019 conference in the Yale Law School. There is also a bibliography of works on the Queen Caroline Affair.

A special attraction of the online exhibit is a digital reproduction of the Humphrey Shop Album, created by prominent London satiric print publisher George Humphrey (1773?-1831?) to market prints to his clients. Virtually all of its 131 hand-colored prints are contemporary satires of the Queen Caroline scandal by artists such as George Cruikshank, Robert Cruikshank, and Theodore Lane. The survival of this shop album in its original binding is itself extraordinary, as most such albums have been broken up and sold as individual prints by later dealers. The album is one of the treasures of the Lewis Walpole Library.

“Trial by Media: The Queen Caroline Affair” was co-curated by Cynthia Roman, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Paintings at the Lewis Walpole Library, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library. The online exhibition was designed by Kristen McDonald of the Lewis Walpole Library.

The political queen that Jack loves: with thirteen cuts (London: Printed and published by Roach & Co., 1820). Illustrations by George Cruikshank. Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Detail from Justinian's Institutes (Venice, 1476)
March 4, 2020

Books are the lawyer’s tools and the law student’s laboratory, and nothing brings this home better than the marks that they leave in their books. Over 30 such annotated and inscribed books from the Lillian Goldman Law Library are on display in “Precedents So Scrawl’d and Blurr’d: Readers’ Marks in Law Books,” the Spring 2020 exhibition from the library’s Rare Book Collection.

Exhibition curator Mike Widener, the Law Library’s rare book librarian, selected items that offer both research potential and insights into the roles that law books have played in people’s lives. The marks left by readers document the lived experience of the law, and remind us that law is above all a human endeavor.

The exhibition’s title comes from John Anstey’s verse satire of the legal profession, The Pleader’s Guide (1796): “Precedents so scrawl’d and blurr’d / I scarce could read one single word.”

Many of the volumes illustrate the work of lawyers, law students, law professors, and authors throughout the centuries. Doodles suggest the writers taking a break from dreary legal studies. Scraps of poetry can be sources for literary scholars. Readers also used their books to record events, ranging from a drunken outburst in the New Jersey assembly to a famous naval battle of the War of 1812 and the beheading of Henry VIII’s fifth queen.

These books represent a small fraction of the annotated books in the Yale Law Library’s rare book collection. They demonstrate the value of collecting these artifacts, and constitute the Law Library’s invitation to explore them further.

“Precedents So Scrawl’d and Blurr’d” is the latest in a series of exhibitions that examine law books as physical artifacts, and the relationships between their forms and content. It is on display March 2 to June 17, 2020, 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>.

A true and perfect relation of the whole proceedings against the late most barbarous traitors (London, 1606)

This book documents the trial of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. An early owner wrote his review on the flyleaf:

This is a relation (as the Title Page calls it) and not a Tryal, for no Witnesses are produced in it — It would have been far more Satisfactory to the Reader; if the Evidence had been inserted in the manner it is [in] the State Tryals; where you have the very Words of the Witnesses, and the Cross-Examinations of them by the Prisoners. But here you have little more than the Inditements, & the Harangues of the Lords Commissioners & the Attorney General.

Dr. Cowel in his Interpreter under the word Heyreloom calls this Speech a Divine Speech.

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