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.

April 14, 2014

Kan’ichi Asakawa (1873-1948) was a remarkable scholar and cultural ambassador. Educated in Japan and at Dartmouth, Asakawa earned a Ph.D. from Yale (1902) and embarked on a long and productive career, spent largely in the Yale History department. His work centering on classical and medieval Japan – particularly its economy and government – was pioneering, and he maintained interests in medieval Europe, drawing the feudal institutions of both societies into comparative perspective.

Dr. Asakawa wrote on later periods as well, and proved an engaged observer of contemporary East Asian-American relations. He corresponded widely, and is credited with fostering greater understanding between Japan and America, in academic circles and beyond. In the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, he spearheaded efforts to appeal through the US government to the Emperor of Japan, in the hope of avoiding Japanese-American hostilities. 

At Yale, Asakawa also served as the curator of the East Asian Collection, from his appointment in 1907 to his death in 1948. Among other impressive feats, he acquired 11,280 works (comprising 66,520 volumes) on a trip to Japan in 1906-1907, and motivated the donation of a collection of rare Japanese works in the 1930s. More on Asakawa and his career is available at the Council of East Asian Studies, and the finding aid to his papers is also online.

Asakawa was a collector of Western rare books, and had a strong interest in law. After his death, eighty-six rare law books from Asakawa’s collection were transferred from Yale University Library to the Law School Library. Among these, feudal law, French customary law, German Landrecht, and commentaries on them, from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, are prominent. Two examples are pictured below: at left, Jean Boutillier’s La grant somme Rural (Paris, 1539), a fourteenth-century work on French customary law in use in northern France, and Francois Hotman’s De fevdis commentatio tripertita (Lyon, 1573), reflecting Hotman’s classroom teaching on feudal law.

In his books, Asakawa also recorded the prices and dates of purchase. The image at bottom shows his ownership stamp, with the date (Dec. 1921) and the price paid in French francs (750) for his copy of Boutillier. The English price and date of purchase is also copied faintly on the title page of Hotman’s De feudis, bits of information which can be used to trace the development of the collection.

Asakawa’s interesting collection of rare law books can be perused through the Library’s catalog. 

– RYAN GREENWOOD, Rare Book Fellow



March 26, 2014

Guggenberger, Veit. Ayd-Buch: warinnen findig das ayd, und ayd-schwur seyen… [Oath-book: wherein is found the oath and how to swear it…]. Munich: Druckts und verlegts Heinrich Theodor von Cöllen, Churfürstl. Hof-Buchdrucker und Buchhandler, 1738.

This book is the second edition of a 1699 treatise on the oaths used in different trades, and the relevant laws of the Holy Roman Empire and German states. The text addresses the oaths of apothecaries, doctors, bakers, architects, millers, and grave-diggers.  The book contains two engravings showing the proper postures for oath taking. The text is printed in black ink on handmade paper and sewn on single raised cords. 

The book has wooden boards, is covered in alum-tawed skin decorated with blind-tooled stamps and rolls, and retains its original clasps.


         RTI of Ayd-Buch                                   Rubbing from BSG   

We found a book with a similar decorative program in the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve database of rubbings. That item was bound not in alum-tawed skin but in brown calf leather. The text it contains are the works of 5th-century Christian theologian Marcus Eremita, and the work of Saint Opatus against the Donatists, published in Paris in 1563 and bound in Germany.

     – Notes by Fionnuala Gerrity

“Reflections on Bindings: Using New Imaging Technology to Study Historical Bindings,” is on display from February 3 - May 24, 2014, on Level L2 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.  The curators are Chief Conservator Christine McCarthy and Conservation Assistants Fionnuala Gerrity, Ansley Joe, and Karen Jutzi, Yale University Library.

March 19, 2014

Giffen, Hubert van, ca. 1533-1604. Commentarius D. Huberti Giphanii … in quator libros Institutionum iuris civilis à Iustiniano … [Commentery on the Institutes of Justinian by Hubert van Giffen]. Frankfurt: Sumptibus Lazari Zetzneri bibliopolæ, 1606.

This book contains a commentary on the Institutes of Justinian written by Dutch-born German jurist and philologist Hubert van Giffen. The text is printed in black ink on handmade paper and sewn onto split thongs. The book has laced-in wooden boards and is covered in alum-tawed pigskin blind-tooled with decorative rolls and central panel stamps. The stamps show Justice and Lucretia.

The curators used different RTI modes to examine the text included in the panel stamps on the front and back of this binding.  Both of the modes shown below revealed the texts in fairly clear detail.


IUSTICIAQVEQVIS                                          CASTATULATMAGN

PICTURALUMINECE                                          AFORMAELUCRELA

RNISDICDEVSESTIV                                         VDEFACTATMAGEST

Using the text we found a number of other images of Lady Justice on other bindings, such as the ones below:


Lady Justice Stamp, EBDB           Lady Justice Stamp, BSG

A visual comparison of 16th-century, German alum-tawed bindings in the British Library (BL) database also revealed what appears to be an exact match of both the front and back stamps. The volume in the BL is Antonini Liberalis Transformationum congeries (the Transformations or Metamorphoses) of Ancient Greek grammarian Antoninus Liberalis, printed in Basel in 1568. The book shares almost the same decorative program as the Commentarius, with central panel stamps and a decorative roll of portrait busts (of Protestant reformers such as Erasmus) separated by foliage. The portrait bust roll used on Commentarius lacks identifying names.  It is possible that the two books were bound in the same workshop.

RTI of Commentarius, back and front                     Photograph of Lady Justice and Lucretia stamps, BL


RTI of roll from Commentarius                                   Photographs of rolls, BL

      –Notes by Fionnuala Gerrity

“Reflections on Bindings: Using New Imaging Technology to Study Historical Bindings,” is on display from February 3 - May 24, 2014, on Level L2 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.  The curators are Chief Conservator Christine McCarthy and Conservation Assistants Fionnuala Gerrity, Ansley Joe, and Karen Jutzi, Yale University Library.

Institutiones imperiales (Cölle, 1563)
March 13, 2014

Institutiones imperiales latinogermanicae : die vier bücher Institutionum Keisers Ivstiniani… [The Latin-German Institutes of the Emperor: the four books of Emperor Justinian’s Institutes…]. Cöllen: Erben Johann Quentels vnd Gerwinem Galenium, 1563.    

This book contains a parallel text of Emperor Justinian’s Institutes in Latin and German, translated by 16th-century German lawyer Justin Göbler.

The text block is printed on handmade paper in black ink, and sewn on split thongs laced into paper boards made with printer’s waste. The book is covered in alum-tawed skin and blind-tooled with decorative rolls. One roll depicts the biblical characters David and Goliath, and the other is a palmette frieze motif commonly used on books of this period.

The two images above show an RTI of the palmettes roll (left), and a rubbing of a similar roll (right) found in the Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve (DELTA 54853 RES, Thomas à Kempis, Opera Omnia).

The image on the left above is an RTI image of the second decorative roll, and on the right are the results of a rubbing of that roll. Using the transcribed text seen in the RTI images of the roll, we were able to find an exact match in Einbandattenbank (EBDB). The text reads DAVID SCHLEGT GOLIATH DEN PHILISTER HAVPTM; “David strikes Goliath, the headman of the Philistines”.

           –Notes by Fionnuala Gerrity. Translation of the title and stamp text is courtesy of Professor Rebekah Ahrendt, Yale Department of Music.

“Reflections on Bindings: Using New Imaging Technology to Study Historical Bindings,” is on display from February 3 - May 24, 2014, on Level L2 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.  The curators are Chief Conservator Christine McCarthy and Conservation Assistants Fionnuala Gerrity, Ansley Joe, and Karen Jutzi, Yale University Library.


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