Rare Books Blog

Bookplate of Jared Ingersoll Senior, an early New Haven lawyer
September 12, 2018

The Rare Book Collection recently acquired the first edition of Henry Ballow’s Treatise of Equity (London, 1737) because it is the first edition of a work that was the standard treatise on equity in the century before the publication of Joseph Story’s Commentaries on Equity Jurisprudence (Boston, 1836). In his History of English Law, William Holdsworth writes that Ballow on Equity “can be taken as a good starting point for the history of the development of many of the principles and rules of modern equity.”

What made this particular copy so desirable is its provenance. It bears the armorial bookplate of Jared Ingersoll Sr. (1722-1781), an early lawyer in New Haven. The shield includes the family motto: “Fama sed virtus non moriatur” (Fame, but not virtue, will die). Ingersoll also signed the title page and the signature on the title page “Jared Ingersoll’s Nove.r 1751”.

Jared Ingersoll was born Milford, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale College in 1742. He embarked on a legal career and was appointed King’s Attorney for New Haven County in 1751, around the time he acquired our book. Ingersoll acquired considerable notoriety when he returned from a trip to England in 1765 with an appointment as the Crown’s agent for collecting the hated Stamp Tax. He was reportedly burned in effigy in several towns, and a crowd of 500 intercepted him in Wethersfield, Connecticut, on his way to Hartford to seek refuge with the General Assembly, forcing him to resign his post. His other claim to fame is as the father of Jared Ingersoll, Jr., a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and an unsuccessful candidate for vice president in 1812 on the Federalist ticket.

For more information on Ingersoll, see his Wikipedia entry, which includes a portrait. He is the subject of a full-length biography: Lawrence Henry Gipson, Jared Ingersoll: A Study of American Loyalism in Relation to British Colonial Government (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1920).

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Cover to "Law's Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection"
April 24, 2018

I am extremely pleased and honored to announce that Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection (Clark, New Jersey: Talbot Publishing, 2017) has earned the 2018 Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award “recognizes a significant textual contribution to legal literature” based on the work’s creativity, originality, and judgment. It is the highest award bestowed by AALL for publications.

As many of you know, Law’s Picture Books is the catalogue of the landmark exhibition that the Lillian Goldman Law Library mounted at the Grolier Club in New York City, September 13 - November 18, 2017. The full-color, 220-page catalogue includes images and descriptions of each of the 140 volumes displayed at the Grolier Club, plus four introductory essays.

My profound thanks to…

  • My esteemed co-author, Mark S. Weiner, who collaborated with me for four years on this project, and with whom I share this award.
  • Greg Talbot of Lawbook Exchange for publishing the catalogue and for his advice.
  • Valerie Horowitz of Talbot Publishing, the publishing arm of Lawbook Exchange, for her superb editing and design.
  • The Charles J. Tanenbaum Fund, Yale Law School, and the Pine Tree Foundation for their generous support of the exhibition and its catalogue.

Thanks also to the Grolier Club’s director, Eric Holzenberg, Exhibition Coordinator Jennifer Sheehan, and Irene Tichenor of the Public Exhibitions Committee for hosting the exhibition; Jolande Goldberg of the Law Library of Congress and Erin Blake of the Folger Shakespeare Library for their excellent essays, and Library Director Teresa Miguel-Stearns for her unflagging support.

Law’s Picture Books joins an illustrious list of Andrews Award winners from Yale, including Ann Laeuchli’s Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone (2015), Morris Cohen’s Bibliography of Early American Law (1998), and Fred Shapiro’s Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations (1993).

Copies of Law’s Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection can be checked out from the Lillian Goldman Law Library, or can be purchased from Talbot Publishing.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Woodcut initial "F"
April 19, 2018

Those who monitor our Flickr site may have become aware of my latest obsession: woodcut and engraved initial letters. I am compiling examples from our Rare Book Collection in an album entitled “Decorative initials.”

The capital “F” at left is from a dissertation submitted to Leipzig University in 1721 for a doctorate in law (Alexander Augustus Arnold, Dissertationem juridicam De declinanda recognitione documentorum propter deficientem causam debendi in processu executivo (Leipzig: Immanuel Tietze, 1721)). German legal dissertations like this one are a rich source of woodcut initials and other decorative elements. The Law Library has thousands of these German legal dissertations. Written in Latin on topics that are now arcane and obsolete. For me, their typography and decorations are now their most interesting features. Several of them are featured in our current exhibition, “Law Books Bright and Beautiful.”

Decorated initials are still used in modern graphic design. They made their first appearance about fifteen hundred years ago and represent a survival from early Western manuscript culture. Their function has always been to mark the beginning or major divisions of a text. The more elaborate initials, adorned with gold leaf, are called illuminated initials, such as this one marking the opening of a 14th-century manuscript of the Constitutions of Pope John XXII:

Illuminated initial from a 14th-century canon law manuscript

Constitutiones cum apparatu Joannis Andree (14th century). Full image in Flickr.

Old habits die hard, among both publishers and readers. As a result, printed books from the first half-century of printing left spaces in the opening lines of text, which could be filled with illuminated initials like the ones found in medieval manuscripts:

Illuminated initial "A", Germany, 1479.

Henricus de Segusio (Hostiensis), Summa super titulis Decretalium (Speier: Georgius de Spira, 1478-1479). Full image in Flickr.

Soon printers began using woodcut initials to take the place of the painted initials. They are called “historiated” initials when their decoration includes human or animal figures, such as this one from the “Law Books Bright and Beautiful” exhibit:

Woodcut initial "I", Italy, 1556.

Manifesti et Cartelli passati tra gli Illust. Signori, il Signor Bartolomeo delli Marchesi del Monte Santa Maria, & il Sig. Conte Camillo Castiglione (Pesaro: Bartolomeo Cesano, 1556). Full image in Flickr.

In the late 17th century, printers began using copperplate engravings for initials, which provide much finer detail than woodcuts. Unlike woodcuts, however, engravings had to be printed on a different press, thus requiring patience and skill to print the engraved initial in the blank space left in the printed text. Below is one of the fine engraved initials from Thomas Madox’s History and antiquities of the Exchequer of the kings of England (London: J. Matthews, 1711). Note the faint marks around the edge left by the engraved plate:

Engraved initial "H", England, 1711.

Thomas Madox’s History and antiquities of the Exchequer of the kings of England (London: Printed by J. Matthews, 1711). Full image in Flickr.

Decorated initials went out of fashion in the late 18th century as book design became more austere. They returned in modern times with the fine printing renaissance. Brian McGinty’s Haraszthy at the Mint (Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1975), also from the “Law Books Bright and Beautiful” exhibit, is an example:

Decorative initial "T", California, 1975.

Brian McGinty, Haraszthy at the Mint (Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1975). Full image in Flickr.

I close with a couple more of my favorite woodcut initials from German legal dissertations. To learn more about woodcuts and engravings, there is no better starting place than “Woodcut, engraving, or what?”, an illustrated explanation by Erin Blake at The Collation, the excellent blog of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Woodcut initial "E", Germany, 1736.

Christian Köhler, Dissertatio juridica de attestatis = Von Kundschafften (Halle: Hendel, 1736). Full image in Flickr.

Woodcut initial "P", Netherlands, 1711.

Heinrich von Cocceji, Dissertatio juridica de momentaria possessione & lite vindiciarum (Leiden: Johan Elsevir, 1711). Full image in Flickr.

Woodcut initial "M", Germany, 1745.

Knorr, Karl Gottlieb. Dissertatio De differentiis iuris Romani et Germanici in nobilitate adoptiva (Halle: Grunert, 1745). Full image in Flickr.

Students viewing early American legal manuscripts
April 6, 2018

The Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog marks its tenth anniversary this week. The first post was on a presentation to Professor James Whitman’s “Western Legal Traditions” class.

Exactly ten years later, the Rare Book Collection took part in another class session. This time it was the seminar on “Research Methods in American Legal History” taught by my colleague John Nann. After talking with the class about biographical and archival research, they visited the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Reading Room to see a sampling of our manuscript resources for American legal history, such as Aholiab Johnson’s account book for his law practice (see below). They were only the latest of several classes to make use of the collections this year.

I have always been eager to promote instructional use of our special collections. Lately, the increase in classroom use has influenced my efforts and perspectives on collection-building. For one thing, it puts duplicates in a whole new light. The texts of classic works of the common law, such as Bracton or Glanville or Fitzherbert’s Graunde Abridgment, no longer have the research value they once had since their text is readily available online. However, the original printed books remain highly valuable as teaching tools. Having duplicate copies of these works reduces wear and tear on individual copies.

The original printed books and manuscripts also make a visceral impact on students that a PowerPoint slide will never have. They are the tools of the students’ professional ancestors, and virtually our only tangible connections with them. We should conceive of rare book and manuscript purchases as investments in instructional technology, every bit as effective as “smart classrooms,” if not more so.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Pages from Aholiab Johnson's law practice ledger, 1840

Account book of Aholiab Johnson (1825-1840).

Know your rights comix (Oakland, Calif.: Midnight Special Law Collective, 2004?)
March 28, 2018

The Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site recently passed the 5,000-image mark. This seems like a good time for an update on additions to the site, and improvements to its organization.When you visit our Flickr site, your first stop is the Photostream, which is simply all 5,100+ images in the order they have been added to the site, beginning with the most recent. By clicking on the Albums tab, you will see the images organized into 118 albums (some individual images are in several albums).

For even broader categories, click the “View collections” link. The 118 albums are grouped into the following six collections (again, some albums are in more than one collection).

Lizzie Nutt's Sad Experience (1886)

N. L. Dukes, Lizzie Nutt’s sad experience (Philadelphia: Barclay & Co., 1886).

A number of new albums have been added. These include:

  • Law & Modern Social Movements features examples of a new collecting area, focused on the legal aspects of social and political movements in the 20th and 21st centuries. Topics include civil rights, labor movements, Red Scare trials, capital punishment, police brutality, abortion, the Second Amendment, jury nullification, law reform, property rights, the war on drugs, immigration, and more, from across the political spectrum. It includes professional literature, children’s books, and ephemera such as pamphlets, brochures, and broadsides.
  • Trials: Barclay & Co. contains images from the popular trial accounts published by Barclay & Co. of Philadelphia. Barclay was one of the pioneers of the “true crime” genre. Its trial accounts were usually illustrated and always sensationalized. Some of the details were pure fiction masquerading as fact. See the article by Thomas M. McDade, “Lurid Literature of the Last Century: The Publications of E. E. Barclay,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 80:4 (Oct. 1956), 452-464.
  • Connecticut law & legal history showcases another of the Rare Book Collection’s strengths.
  • Two albums contain images from the 1575 German editions of Joost de Damhoudere’s popular handbook on criminal law, Praxis rerum criminalium (1575), and its companion volume on civil law, Practica, gerichtlicher Handlunge in burgerliche Sachen (1575).
  • Regles du droit francois displays the seven charming ink-and-gouache portraits that adorn a manuscript copy of a printed book, the 1732 edition of Claude Poquet de Livonniere’s Regles du Droit Francois. The book was seemingly prepared to entice the son of a French nobleman to study French law.
  • Religious images are not uncommon in early printed law books. They can be of value for research and often have considerable artistic value. So far, the images are entirely Christian, but I hope to find images relating to other faiths in our collection.

I welcome comments and suggestions.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Statuto del Santo Monte (1690)

Santo monte della pietà di Reggio, Statuto del Santo Monte (In Reggio: Per Prospero Vedrotti, 1690), which can be found in the Italian statutes and Religious images albums on our Flickr site.

Detail from opening page, Statuta civitatis Verone (1475)
February 28, 2018

Although law books may not be known for their beauty, two dozen lovely exceptions are on display in the Lillian Goldman Law Library. “Law Books Bright and Beautiful: Examples from the Yale Law Library Collection” is on display February 26 - June 1, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT).

The exhibition was curated by Rare Book Librarian Mike Widener. He selected the books for the beauty of their typography, decoration, or overall design.

The volumes range from a 13th-century illuminated manuscript to modern fine press books on famous American trials. Other volumes include the mining laws of New Spain (1783), the statutes of Verona (1475), and a stunning book of French customary law (1540) printed on parchment with initials in gold leaf. Three of the books were chosen for their colorful endpapers.

Images from the exhibition are being uploaded to an album on the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site, “Law Books Bright and Beautiful.” Images from other beautiful law books will be added as time allows.

“Law Books Bright and Beautiful” is the latest in a series of exhibitions aimed at promoting the study of law books as objects. It follows two exhibitions dedicated to illustrations in law books. Bindings will be showcased in an upcoming exhibition.

For more information, contact Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian, email <mike.widener@yale.edu> or phone (203) 432-4494.

Senlis (France). Les coustumes des duchez contez & chastellenies du bailliage de Senlis. Paris: Galliot du Pre & Jean Andre, 1540.

Portrait of Cinque, from Documents relating to the Africans taken in the Amistad (1840)
February 1, 2018

In honor of Black History Month, the Lillian Goldman Law Library is pleased to make publicly available one of the most comprehensive contemporary accounts of the case of the Amistad captives. Documents Relating to the Africans Taken in the Amistad was originally published as a 16-page special issue of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter, a monthly newspaper published in New York City by the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

Dated December 1840, the “Extra” begins with a lengthy account of the Amistad incident by Judge William Jay, one of the society’s founders. It reprints court documents, official correspondence, and records from the Spanish and British governments. In addition there are biographical sketches of the captives, and a facsimile reproduction of a letter from one of the youngest captives, Ka-Le, to Lewis Tappan, the society’s founder.

Documents Relating to the Africans Taken in the Amistad is one of several historic publications in the American Trials section of the Yale Law Library Special Collections documents collection, part of eYLS, the Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository.

ConnecticutHistory.org has put together a thorough guide to online resources on the Amistad case.

To find all of the Law Library’s holdings on the Amistad case, do a subject search for “Amistad (Schooner)” in our online catalog, MORRIS.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


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