Rare Books Blog

The Law of Trade, or, A Digest of the Law Concerning Trade, Commerce, and Manufactures (London,
December 19, 2013

From the Taussig collection the library has acquired a number of rare volumes dealing with commercial law. Most date to the eighteenth century, and many offer insights into the practices of local English merchants and the statutory and case law which regulated them. The volume, Points in Law and Equity (London, 1792), aims to aid merchants who lacked “information as to many of the points of law” concerning the “immense” volume of commerce that passed daily throughout England. Organized as a digest with alphabetically-arranged precepts excerpted from statutes and case reports, it advises that promissory notes, where money is knowingly lent for the sake of gambling, are void (37); or that a factor (or commercial employee) to whom a balance is due, has a lien on the goods of the owner in the employee’s possession (96). A contemporary work, The Law of Trade, or A Digest of the Law, gives a fuller summary of important case law on legal questions relating to merchants and trade. Our volume has no place or date—though it was published probably around 1800—and has not been located in other libraries.      

Several of the books on commerce and merchant law are more international in scope. The Lex Mercatoria Rediviva, or the Merchant’s Directory (London, 1751?), deals with aspects of trade familiar since the medieval period, including bills of exchange and maritime insurance, but also treats complex contemporary cases and guides merchants through the intricacies of trade in foreign countries. The work is a terrific resource for studying the laws and customs in force in European countries in the mid-eighteenth century, and a good source for the products and economies merchants navigated as they traveled between ports and inland markets.

The Taussig acquisitions were funded in large part by a generous grant from Yale Law School’s Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.

– RYAN GREENWOOD, Rare Book Fellow   

The faithful councellor, or, The marrow of the lavv in English, bound with The second part of The faithfull councellour ... (London, 1653-54)
December 11, 2013

Among the Taussig acquisitions, works by outstanding legal writers are an area of strength. Among these, William Sheppard (1595-1674) stands particularly tall. The most prolific and perhaps the most influential legal writer of his generation, Sheppard pioneered works in new areas of legal publishing, including his encyclopedic, The Faithful Councellor, or, The Marrow of the Lavv in English and its companion volume, The Second Part of the Faithfull Councellour, which are bound together in our 1653-54 edition (at left). The works were written in response to a 1650 decree that pleading in English courts be conducted in English, replacing the centuries-old, cumbersome Law French. Sheppard’s volumes were the first to address the new demand, providing a general guide to litigation in English. The Faithfull Councellor describes the actions that could be brought in common law, set out in the form of a commonplace book organized alphabetically by topic.      

Another of Sheppard’s works, Action upon the case for slander (1662), similarly addresses, in the form of a reference work, an emergent need. Only the second printed work of its kind, Sheppard produced a handbook for lawyers on the different kinds of slander—of which there were many—and their penalties. Amusing to modern readers may be references to cases and penalties for such abuse as “thou art a false forsworn knave” (62). The work offers good insight into forms of colloquial speech and the development of English slander law.

Sheppard was quite actively interested in law reform. After his work came to the attention of Oliver Cromwell, he was called in 1654 to advise Cromwell’s government. His published work containing recommendations for reform is extensive, with ample material on law reform and the reform of the English Church. After the Restoration, Sheppard’s fortunes changed, but he continued to publish innovative books until his death. Over a career of thirty-three years, a remarkable forty-nine editions of his twenty-three works were circulated in print.

From the Taussig collection the Library has been able to acquire twenty-two editions of Sheppard’s works.

The Taussig acquisitions were funded in large part by a generous grant from Yale Law School’s Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.

– RYAN GREENWOOD, Rare Book Fellow

Morris L. Cohen
December 11, 2013

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Sixth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Cohen was a leading scholar in the fields of legal research, rare books, and historical bibliography.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries and law librarianship. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., March 17, 2014.

The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting, which is scheduled for July 12-15, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal “Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books.”

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Abbreviamentum statutorum (London, 1481)
December 9, 2013

Of all the outstanding books we acquired from the collection of Anthony Taussig (see our previous post), one has special importance: an abridgment of statutes considered to be the very first printed book of English law. Known as the Abbreviamentum statutorum, it was printed in London by John Lettou and William de Machlinia, probably in 1481.

The Abbreviamentum statutorum arranges summaries of English statutes under 304 subject headings, and derives from one or more manuscript abridgments of statutes that circulated in 15th-century England. Most of the summaries are in Law French (Anglo-Norman), although a few are in Latin. The layout is similar to that of manuscript commonplace books, with generous space left in the margins and between titles that enable the reader to update his book. The book also includes a 12th-century glossary of Anglo-Saxon legal terms under the title “Exposicio Vocabulorum,” and thus could be considered the first proto-dictionary of English law.

Lettou and Machlinia were London’s first printers. The Abbreviamentum statutorum was the first of five law books they published, which included two editions of Littleton’s Tenures and two collections of statutes. For a summary of their work, see “Legal Printing in London” by Lotte Hellinga, a leading authority on early printing, in the excellent First Impressions website of the University of Manchester Library.

Our copy of the Abbreviamentum statutorum was featured in a video, “The Sound of One Book Clapping,” on Mark Weiner’s Worlds of Law blog.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Abbreviamentum statutorum (1481)

Bryan A. Garner
December 5, 2013

Bryan A. Garner, the world’s leading legal lexicographer, will give a talk on Monday, December 9, about the exhibit of association copies from his private book collection, which is currently on display in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Garner, Editor in Chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, has amassed a private collection of 36,000 books. He is particularly drawn to “association copies,” books once owned or inscribed by their authors or other significant individuals. The inscriptions, says Garner, are an “ineffable connection” with those who once signed or owned the book.

Garner’s talk is scheduled for 1pm on December 9 in Room 128 of the Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street in New Haven. A limited number of exhibit catalogues will be available for those who attend the talk.

The exhibit, “Built by Association: Books Once Owned by Notable Judges and Lawyers,” includes books inscribed by John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Clarence Darrow, the most famous trial lawyer in American history. Other notable figures include Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Benjamin Cardozo, and Lindley Murray, a lawyer best known as “the father of English grammar.” Three of the authors taught at Yale Law School: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Judge Jerome Frank, and the iconoclastic Professor Fred Rodell.

Garner has been editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary since 1996. He has authored many other standard reference works in legal lexicography and legal writing, including Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (3d ed. 2011), The Elements of Legal Style (2nd ed. 2002), and The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (3rd ed. 2013). He is the co-author with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia of Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012). Garner is also the author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed. 2009), published by Oxford University Press. Garner is the owner of LawProse, which conducts seminars in legal writing around the world. He is also Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University.

Garner curated the exhibit, with assistance from Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian in the Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The exhibit is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily, through December 18 on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

The boyhood days of Guy Fawkes (1895)
November 3, 2013

R.J. Lambe, The Boyhood Days of Guy Fawkes, or, The Conspirators of Old London (London: Edwin J. Brett Ltd., “Harkaway House”, [1895?]). Gift of the late Professor Morris L. Cohen. A specimen of the “Penny dreadfuls” genre of popular literature, from the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

Nicolaus de Gijselaar, De venatione (1734)
November 2, 2013

The latest addition to our Flickr site is “Dutch legal dissertations”. This set of images is another product of my interest in illustrated law books.

The Lillian Goldman Law Library owns thousands of dissertations for doctorates in law from the 17th-18th centuries, most of them from German universities. The title pages of the German dissertations tend to be fairly plain and text-heavy (see the “German legal dissertations” set on Flickr for a taste), although the woodcut headpieces and initials can be quite pretty; you can view several examples in the “Justitia - initials” set.

However, almost all of the 18th-century Dutch dissertations have ornate engraved title pages, like the dissertation on hunting law shown here, one shown here, Dissertatio juridica inauguralis: De venatione (1734), submitted by Nicolaus de Gijselaar for his doctorate in law from Leiden University. Note that the title page is larger than the rest of the 24-page pamphlet. This is another common feature of Dutch legal dissertations. One hypothesis is that the title pages did double duty as broadsides advertising these important academic events, where the candidate would formally present his dissertation to the assembled faculty and dignitaries.

I have yet to find the same engraving re-used in another dissertation. This indicates both the prosperity of the Dutch Republic and the importance placed on the dissertations.

At this writing, “Dutch legal dissertations” contains images of only 10 dissertations, but more are on their way. I am scouring the uncataloged dissertations for additional examples.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


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