Rare Books Blog

Trial, Sentence, Confession and Execution of Joel Clough (1833)
November 22, 2014

New Yale Law Library exhibit…

Murder and Women in 19th-Century America:
Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library

Murder trials have long been a subject of sensational treatment in popular culture, and murder trials involving women, as the accused or the victims, especially so.

The latest exhibit from the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection features 19th-century illustrated pamphlets that document the public’s fascination with these trials.

The exhibit, “Murder and Women in 19th-Century America: Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library,” is curated by Emma Molina Widener (Department of World Languages, Southern Connecticut State University) and Michael Widener (Rare Book Librarian, Yale Law Library). It is on display through February 21, 2015, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT).

The exhibit can also be viewed in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.

Murder trial pamphlets are a rich source for studying popular culture and the history of the book, as well as legal history. Trials involving women are especially valuable for the study of 19th-century gender roles. With the exception of slavery trials, no genre of 19th-century legal literature is better served by research tools than murder trials.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Ann Jordan Laeuchli
October 21, 2014

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is at the same time delighted to report the publication of Ann Jordan Laeuchli’s Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone (Buffalo, NY: Published for Yale Law Library by William S. Hein & Co., 2015) and deeply saddened to report the death of its author.

Ann Laeuchli passed away on September 26, a mere four days after receiving her personal copies of her magnum opus, a work that she spent two decades preparing, the last few years with the able assistance and editorship of James E. Mooney. Ann served the Yale Law Library as its Associate Law Librarian from 1984 to 1993 during the directorship of the late, great Morris L. Cohen. It was Morris who encouraged Ann to undertake the Blackstone bibliography. She dedicated the book to Morris, “my director, my mentor, my friend.”

A Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone supercedes and surpasses the work that until now was the standard bibliography, Catherine Spicer Eller’s The William Blackstone Collection in the Yale Law Library: A Bibliographical Catalogue (New Haven: Published for the Yale Law Library by the Yale University Press, 1938). The 266 entries in Eller included only the Blackstone collection at Yale, while Laeuchli’s 672 entries cover all editions of Blackstone’s works published in the Roman alphabet, plus biographies, criticisms, catalogs, prospectuses, exhibitions, microtexts, and electronic resources.

Laeuchli’s bibliography is a fitting tribute to Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), whose Commentaries on the Laws of England (1st ed. 1765-1769) remains the single most influential book in the history of Anglo-American common law. As Morris Cohen wrote in his Foreword, “It is hard to imagine a legal figure whose works are more deserving of bibliographic coverage than William Blackstone.”

As the home of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Blackstoniana, the Yale Law Library supported Laeuchli’s project enthusiastically and is honored to sponsor its publication.

Following Ann Laeuchli’s death, her family returned to the library a very special book that was the foundation of Ann’s project: a copy of Eller’s 1938 Blackstone bibliography, inscribed on the cover “Personal copy of Catherine S. Eller Annotated”, interleaved and filled with Eller’s notes on Blackstone editions to add. We thank the Laeuchli family, and we join with them in mourning the death of a wonderful woman and celebrating her achievements.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Dominicus de Sancto Geminiano's Super secunda parte sexti libri decretalium (Rome: Adam   Rot, 1471)
September 26, 2014

The third of Yale Law Library’s four books from 1471 is a canon law commentary: Dominicus de Sancto Geminiano’s Super secunda parte sexti libri decretalium (Rome: Adam Rot, 1471).

The author, Dominicus de Sancto Geminiano (a.k.a. Domenico da San Gimignano), was considered one of the best canonists of his time. He taught law at Bologna’s famous law school, where he earned a doctorate in canon law in 1402, and was an official in the papal law courts. He was a prolific author. This commentary on the Liber Sextus is one of his most important works.


In his Bibliographical Decameron (1817), Thomas Frognall Dibdin refers to the book’s printer, Adam Rot, as “that subtle and coy typographical artist … of whom we know little or nothing in this country.” Not much has been learned since then. Rot was one of the early group of German printers in Rome. The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue lists 37 titles printed by Rot in the period 1471-1474. He published several volumes of consilia by various jurists. He was the first publisher of guidebooks for pilgrims to Rome. The Super secunda parte sexti libri decretalium is Rot’s earliest book bearing an imprint date.


Our copy is printed in roman type, with elegant hand-drawn initials in alternating red and blue, and red paragraph marks.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Gratian's Decretum (Strassburg, 1471)
September 22, 2014

A frequent question from visitors is “What is your oldest book?”. For printed books, there are four contenders for the distinction. All of them were printed in 1471, seventeen years after Johan Gutenberg produced the first printed book, his 42-line Bible. This series of posts will introduce them.

First up is the 1471 edition of Gratian’s Decretum, printed in Strassburg by Heinrich Eggestein. It is the first printed edition of the Decretum, one of the foundational texts of medieval and early modern canon law. Gratian, a 12th-century cleric who became bishop of Chuisi in Tuscany, compiled thousands of authoritative statements of church law and attempted to reconcile the differences. The Decretum was the basic textbook of canon law for centuries, and formed part of the law of the Catholic Church until 1917.

The printer, Heinrich Eggestein, might have first learned the new art of printing from Johan Gutenberg himself at Gutenberg’s workshop in in Mainz, and might have even witnessed the printing of Gutenberg’s Bible. From 1466 to 1488 Eggestein printed books in Strassburg, beginning with a Latin Bible, and printed many books of Roman and canon law.

Eggestein’s 1471 Decretum is one of our prettiest incunables. It is printed in Gothic type, with initials and paragraph marks in alternating red and blue. It is also quite possibly the heaviest book in our collection, weighing in at a whopping 28 lbs.!

For more, see:

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Map of Fort Lorenzo, Panama (1740)
September 11, 2014

I picked up a volume to catalog that until recently was in the the Los Angeles County Law Library. We acquired it at auction in London in the spring 2014. The title is De mercatura decisiones, et tractatus varii et di rebus ad eam pertinentibus, published in Cologne in 1622. The volume is about commercial law and contains some decisions of the commercial court in Genoa, as well as various other writings on commercial law. We don’t know how it came into the possession of the LA County Law Library. There is one unusual thing about this volume: our copy has laid in before the title page a map, 14 x 17 cm. Since the land mass looked a little like the shape of Africa, I still wasn’t too surprised. A little closer look, and I saw “to Panama 82 miles.” OK, now I’m interested. I searched the map and found that the Library of Congress has a copy of this map in their Panama Canal collection. The catalog record is beautiful, and it indicates that the reason for the map was the bombardment of Fort San Lorenzo, Panama, in 1740.

Here’s my question. Why did the former owner of this copy of a book on commercial law published in 1622, find it useful to bind in a map of Panama, published in 1740?

– SUSAN KARPUK, Rare Books Cataloger

The Common Law Epitomiz'd
September 2, 2014

“The Common Law Epitomiz’d: Anthony Taussig’s Law Books” is the latest exhibit from the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book collection. It showcases the Law Library’s acquisitions from the greatest private collection of rare English law books ever assembled: the collection of Anthony Taussig.


Anthony Taussig, a London barrister, assembled his outstanding collection of rare law books and manuscripts over a 35-year period.


The exhibit is on display through November 15, 2014, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT).


The books on display include the very first printed book of English law, the first book on women’s rights in English law, the first justice of the peace manual, notes from Sir William Blackstone’s Oxford lectures, a trove of pamphlets on law reform, and a relic of the opening salvo in the struggle to abolish slavery. The acquisition was made possible by generous grants from Yale Law School’s Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.


The exhibit was curated by Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law Library, and Ryan Greenwood, Rare Book Librarian at the University of Minnesota Law Library and the 2013-14 Yale Law Library Rare Book Fellow.


Running concurrently is “Uncommon Law: A Celebration of the Taussig Collection,” an exhibition at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The exhibition features Taussig’s outstanding collection of legal manuscripts acquired by the Beinecke. It is on display September 5 through December 15.


For more information, contact Mike Widener at (203) 432-4494, email <mike.widener@yale.edu>.

 

Statuti, e leggi della Valle Seriana Superiore (Bergamo, 1769)
August 15, 2014

The core of our outstanding collection of early Italian municipal statutes is a private collection purchased in 1946. Thanks to Rare Book Cataloger Susan Karpuk, this original collection, “Italian Statutes Collection, 1946 (Accession no. 46-209)”, is now reunited in the Law Library’s online catalog, MORRIS, and can be browsed via a collection-level record here. The link brings together 643 records for printed books and 51 for manuscripts.

The library purchased this collection in 1946 from the Italian bookdealer Nardecchia, in Samuel Thorne’s first year as Law Librarian. In his annual report for the 1945-46 academic year, Thorne wrote:

“The outstanding acquisition of the year was the notable collection of Italian statuta, numbering almost nine hundred volumes, purchased from a learned Italian lawyer who had brought it, over a period of fifty years, to its present completeness. It contained fifty-two manuscripts of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries, nine incunabula, and many sixteenth-century editions, more than a few unknown to Luigi Manzoni whose Bibliografia statutaria e storica italiana is the standard bibliography of the class.”

In 2008, a representative of Nardecchia reported that it had no records of the sale or of the identity of the “learned Italian lawyer” who built the collection. One of the goals in identifying the volumes that made up this collection was to find clues to the collector’s identity. We indeed found some clues, inscriptions in several of the 20th-century volumes, and are in the process of investigating them.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

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