Rare Books Blog

Curia Filipica, 1700
October 12, 2015

Our Hispanic Heritage Month series continues with a look at a recent acquisition of a fundamental work in the Hispanic legal heritage of the United States. Curia filipica by Juan de Hevia Bolaños was for over two centuries the essential handbook for legal procedure in Spain and in its New World colonies.

Since its first printing in Lima, Peru, in 1603, the Curia filipica enjoyed an extraordinary success, appearing in close to 40 different editions, until its final publication in Paris, 1864. Editions of the Curia filipica were present in virtually any collection of law books in Spain’s colonies. It was owned and consulted not only by lawyers and judges, but also by a wide range of local officials with legal responsibilities, including city officials, garrison commanders, priests, and merchants. It was one of the first law books present in modern-day Texas, listed in the 1800 will of a military chaplain in San Antonio, then a Spanish frontier outpost. It is cited in over a dozen early cases in Louisiana, Texas, and the U.S. Supreme Court, as an authoritative source on Spanish procedure.

The copy we acquired is Curia filipica, primera y segunda parte (Madrid: En la Imprenta de Geronimo de Estrada, 1700). The “second part” is another work by Hevia Bolaños that was originally published separately, Labyrintho de comercio terrestre y naval, which was for decades the only available work in print on Spanish commercial law. Begining in 1644 it was published as the second part of the Curia filipica.

Many scholars now doubt that Juan de Hevia Bolaños is the real author of these two works. The best study of him is Guillermo Lohmann Villena, “En torno de Juan de Hevia Bolaño: la incógnita de su personalidad y los enigmas de sus libros,” Anuario de historia del derecho español 31 (1961), 121-162. He was born in Oviedo, Spain around 1570, and came to the New World in 1594, spending several years working as a scribe and minor court official in Quito before moving to Lima. Lohmann Villena found no evidence that Hevia Bolaños had a university degree, or that he had much of a professional career as a minor legal functionary. He died poor and with no family. One contemporary account describes him as a heavy drinker. It is hard to believe that someone like him could have authored legal texts of such erudition. In addition, close examination of the text by Lohmann Villena indicates that the text was written in Spain and not in the New World.

No matter who wrote it, the Curia filipica is an indispensible source for study of the early legal history of the Southwest U.S.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Contents and printing license for part 1 of Juan de Hevia Bolaños, Curia filipica, primera y segunda parte (Madrid, 1700).

Moreno's Reglas ciertas y precisamente necessarias para juezes (1637)
October 9, 2015

The next acquisition in our Hispanic Heritage Month series is a catalog of judicial sins in colonial Mexico. Reglas ciertas, y precisamente necessarias para juezes, y ministros de justicia de las Indias, y para Sus confessores (Mexico: en la Emprenta de Francisco Salbago, Ministro del Sancto Officio, 1637) was written by Fray Jerónimo Moreno (1561-1631), a Dominican friar. This acquisition was purchased with the Gertrude (Gigi) and Arthur Lazarus, Jr. Fund.

In his introduction, Moreno writes that he was inspired to describe the typical sins of New Spain’s judges as a service to the priests who heard their confessions. He described the judges as for the most part unjust and corrupt, and unrepetent of their sins against the Indians. Compounding the problem were ignorant confessors who made little effort to examine the consciences of the judges.

Among the sins that Moreno lists are conflict of interest, bribery, intimidation, extortion, wage theft, and price gouging. He cautioned priests that these unjust judges could receive absolution only by confessing these sins and by paying full restitution to those whom they had cheated and abused. In his denunciation of abuses against the Native Americans of the New World, Moreno followed in the footsteps of Dominicans such as Bartolomé de las Casas and Francisco Vitoria.

Fray Jerónimo Moreno was born near Seville. Upon entering the Dominican Order he was sent to the University of Salamanca and earned a reputation as a brilliant student. In 1595 he arrived in Oaxaca, where he preached and taught theology. In 1627 he was named as the head of the Dominican province in Oaxaca.

The first edition of Moreno’s Reglas ciertas was published six years after his death. A second edition was published in Puebla in 1732, and in 2005 Mexico’s supreme court published a facsimile edition of the 1732 edition.

For a detailed analysis of the book, including a biography of the author, see Alejandro Mayagoitia, “Notas sobre las Reglas ciertas y precisamente necesarias para jueces y ministros de fray Jerónimo Moreno, O.P.”, Anuario Mexicano de Historia del Derecho 8 (1996).

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Moreno's Reglas ciertas y precisamente necessarias para juezes (1637)

Justice for Salcido, by Guy Endore (1948)
October 6, 2015

Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to October 15) is an opportunity to highlight a number of recent acquisitions. First up is Justice for Salcido (1948) by Guy Endore (1901-1970), a novelist and screenwriter best known for his 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris and his Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). Endore was also active in left-wing politics.

Justice for Salcido is a protest against the killing of an unarmed Mexican teenager by a Los Angeles police officer. The Civil Rights Congress of Los Angeles published it to raise funds for legal costs and to rally community support. We acquired both the published pamphlet and Endore’s original typescript from Lorne Bair Rare Books (Catalog 19, no. 84). Here is their description:

Manuscript and finished pamphlet for one of Endore’s scarcest works, an indictment of the Los Angeles Police Department following the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old Mexican boy, Augustin Salcido, on March 10, 1948. The subsequent trial (which Endore discusses in great detail) resulted in the exoneration of LAPD officer William J. Keyes, and was considered a major blow to the nascent Chicano-rights movement. The case became a cause celebre for left-wing groups in the Los Angeles region. Endore (best known for his 1933 novel The Werewolf of Paris), maintained a lifelong affiliation with the Communist Party, though he managed to largely escape the Red Scare of the McCarthy era. He generally resisted overt political themes in his writing, the current work and a few other political pamphlets being the exceptions.

Justice for Salcido has long been a scarce and sought-after work in the Endore canon. Side-by-side comparison reveals significant differences between the manuscript and the published version, including the elision of an entire preliminary section and the toning down of Endore’s references to LAPD officers, who are frequently described as “psychos” and “sadists” in the manuscript (in the published version, they become “blackshirts” and “fascists”). A significant manuscript from an important, if under-recognized, American novelist.

Thanks to Lorne Bair Rare Books for permission to share their description.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Endore, S. Guy, 1900-1970. Justice for Salcido [mimeographed typescript, 1948?].


250 Years of Blackstone's Commentaries exhibition
September 22, 2015

Our first traveling exhibition, “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” is now on display in the library of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, in London. There is no more fitting location than this, since the Middle Temple was the Inn of Court that Sir William Blackstone belonged to.

Renae Satterley, Deputy Librarian of the Middle Temple, reports that over 2,400 visitors saw the exhibition during the weekend of September 18-19, during an open house co-sponsored by the Middle Temple, the Inner Temple, Temple Church, and the Royal Courts of Justice, “Revealing Magna Carta.” This was part of an even larger city-wide event, Open House London. A gallery of photos of the Middle Temple’s open house is on Flickr.

The exhibition will remain on view until late November in the Middle Temple Library. To visit the exhibition, please contact Renae Satterley (phone: 020 7427 4830) to schedule an appointment, since access to the library is normally restricted to members of the Inns of Court.

In December, the exhibition will travel to the Sir John Salmond Law Library at the University of Adelaide. It will remain on display there through February 2016, and will coincide with the 34th Annual Conference of the Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society.

250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries” marks the 250th anniversary of the publication of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, the single most influential book in the history of Anglo-American law. It features over 40 items from the Yale Law Library’s Blackstone Collection, the largest and most comprehensive collection of Blackstone’s works in the world. The exhibition was curated by Professor Wilfrid Prest of the University of Adelaide and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law Library.

A full-color catalog of the exhibition may be downloaded for free from the Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository.

A special thanks to my colleague at the Middle Temple, Renae Satterley, for making this Blackstone homecoming possible.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Blackstone exhibit at the Middle Temple Library

Visitors viewing the Yale Law Library exhibition, “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” in the Middle Temple Library in London, 19 September 2015. ©Paul Clarke by permission of Inner and Middle Temple.

Decretales Gregorii IX (Venice, 1514)
September 9, 2015

The Pope is universally known as the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church. But it is often forgotten that for much of the papacy’s history the Pope was the most important judicial and legislative authority in western Europe.

A new exhibition at the Yale Law Library, “The Pope’s Other Jobs: Judge and Lawgiver,” illustrates the Pope’s legal responsibilities throughout history using rare books and a medieval manuscript from the Law Library’s outstanding collection. It is curated by Anders Winroth, Forst Family Professor of History, Yale University, and Michael Widener, the Law Library’s Rare Book Librarian. Winroth is one of the world’s leading authorities on medieval canon law.

“In the Middle Ages, canon law (the law of the church) took center stage as a most sophisticated legal system, not only inspiring much secular law but also becoming recognized as the sole authority in several legal fields, such as the law of marriage, the law of just war, and the legal implications of oaths,” said Winroth. The books and manuscripts in the exhibition show how the papacy has shaped areas as diverse as human rights, international boundaries, due process, and marriage law. Many of the legal rights that Americans take for granted, such as the presumption of innocence and the right against self-incrimination, are rooted in the decrees and judicial decisions of medieval popes.

The exhibition is on display September 8-December 15, 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).  It will also appear here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

The Great Charter called in Latyn Magna Carta (London, 1542).
August 29, 2015

The Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site passed two milestones this summer, reaching over 3,000 images and over a million views. The site also sports a number of new albums that are worth pointing out.

In conjunction with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the Magna Carta album features many of our editions of Magna Carta, volumes including Magna Carta, and commentaries on Magna Carta by authorities such as Bracton, Blackstone, and Coke. There is a miniature 14th-century manuscript of Magna Carta, our earliest printed edition (shown at left), and a 1965 5-cent U.S. commemorative stamp. The album is a work in progress, so stay tuned for additions.

My library colleagues have mounted an excellent and informative exhibit, “Magna Carta: History, Legacy and Idea,” in the library’s main reading room. It is on view until October 31 and well worth a visit.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Inscription on book given to Simeon E. Baldwin by Emily Gerry, 1864.
July 27, 2015

A digital version of the exhibit “Evidence of Women: Women as Printers, Donors, and Owners of Law Texts” is now available online through the library’s eYLS portal. This digital version includes the images and labels of all of the books displayed in the exhibit. It also includes source citations for those who want more information.


- ANNA FRANZ, Rare Book Fellow


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