Rare Books Blog

Sir William Blackstone
March 15, 2016

After an eight-month voyage to England and Australia, the Law Library’s exhibition, “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” is on its way home. Its last stop was at the Sir John Salmond Law Library, University of Adelaide, academic home of my co-curator Professor Wilfrid Prest.

The photo below shows Professor Prest, in the plaid shirt at far right, conducting a tour of the exhibition on February 25 for members of Friends of the Barr Smith Library. This is one of several tours he conducted. The exhibition was also a featured attraction at the 34th Annual Conference of the Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society.

The exhibition had its debut here at the Lillian Goldman Law Library in the spring of 2015. It then travelled to the Middle Temple in London (Blackstone’s Inn of Court), September-November 2015. The exhibition was a marvelous opportunity to show off our world-class William Blackstone Collection, and to mark the 250th anniversary of the most influential book in the history of Anglo-American law.

I want to thank Wilfrid Prest for the opportunity to collaborate with him. A very special thanks goes to my colleagues Renae Satterley at the Middle Temple Library and Peter Jacobs at the Sir John Salmond Law Library, University of Adelaide, for making the “Blackstone World Tour” possible.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Russian Blackstone 1781
February 16, 2016

The Rare Book Collection’s Slavic holdings are now described in “Slavic, East European and Central Asian Libguide: Law Library”, courtesy of the Yale University Library Slavic & East European Collection. The guide includes a downloadable list of our Slavic law books, which include 24 Russian titles, seven Czech, five Hungarian, four Polish, and one Slovenian. Chief among these is the 232-volume Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii (Complete Collected Laws of the Russian Empire) (1839-1916). Our most recent Slavic acquisition is volume 2 of the 3-volume Russian translation of Blackstone’s Commentaries (1780-1782), pictured here.

A big thanks to my colleague Agnieszka Rec, PhD candidate in Yale’s Department of History, for compiling and publishing this guide.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian
 

Portrait of Cinque
February 10, 2016

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is proud to join with the Yale Black Law Students Association in remembering the most famous event in New Haven’s history, the Amistad case. In 1839 a group of Africans liberated themselves from the Spanish slave ship Amistad, and their abolitionist lawyers then defeated efforts to return them to slavery.

An open house in the Rare Book Room, at 6pm on February 10, will feature many of the library’s primary primary sources on the Amistad case, including contemporary newspaper accounts and the notebooks used by Roger Sherman Baldwin to prepare his arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. The Amistad, 40 U.S. 518 (1840) (see below).

For those who can’t attend the open house, an album on the Law Library’s Flickr site, “The Amistad Case,” has images from the Law Library’s Amistad collection.

Following the open house, there will be a screening at 6:30pm of Stephen Spielberg’s 1997 film, Amistad, in Room 120, Yale Law School. Please join the Yale Black Law Students Association and the Law Library for this Black History Month event.

Here are a few online resources on the Amistad case:

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Source: Roger Sherman Baldwin (1793-1863). Notebooks relating to the Amistad trial, [1840].

February 8, 2016

Modern academic dissertations are typically rather dull visually, consisting almost entirely of typescript. In early modern Europe, however, dissertations could be quite ornate. The Rare Book Collection recently acquired one of these, a 1692 dissertation from the University of Innsbruck with a lovely portrait of the young emperor Joseph I of the Holy Roman Empire (1678-1711), shown below. The presence of the portrait suggests that the emperor or his representative may have attended the formal defense of the dissertation. The portrait is framed by allegorical figures: on the left, Religion is trampling down Heresy, while on the right Justice beheads a Turk. The artist, Bartholomäus Kilian, came from a family of German engravers.

The dissertation, Manipulus decimarum, sive, Quaestiones X. canonicae et plures controversiae de decimis (Innsbruck: Benedict Carol Reisacher, 1692), is by Kaspar Ignaz von Künigl (1671-1747), later a notable bishop of Brixen, a city in the Italian Alps to the south of Innsbruck. The dissertation is a methodical legal analysis of controversies surrounding tithes.

Thanks to Leo Cadogan Rare Books, whose detailed and learned description provided most of the details given here.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Portrait of Emperor Joseph I, Holy Roman Empire

Free Mooney! Labor's Champion
February 1, 2016

A hundred years ago, a bomb explosion was the pretext that San Francisco authorities needed to prosecute the militant left-wing labor organizer Tom Mooney on trumped-up murder charges. Mooney’s false conviction set off a 22-year campaign for his exoneration. The Yale Law Library, with a collection of over 150 items on the Mooney case, has mounted an exhibition marking the centennial of Mooney’s arrest.

“Free Tom Mooney! The Yale Law Library’s Tom Mooney Collection” is on display through May 27. The exhibition was curated by Lorne Bair and Hélène Golay of Lorne Bair Rare Books, and Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law Library.

The campaign to free Tom Mooney created an enormous number of print and visual materials, including legal briefs, books, pamphlets, movies, flyers, stamps, poetry, and music. It enlisted the support of such figures as James Cagney, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, and George Bernard Shaw. It made Mooney, for a brief time, one of the world’s most famous Americans. The Law Library’s collection is a rich resource for studying the Mooney case, the American Left in the interwar years, and the emergence of modern media campaigns.

The exhibition is on display February 1 - May 27, 2016, 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). Images of of many of the exhibit items can be viewed in the Law Library’s Flickr site.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Lion of St. Mark
January 13, 2016

Cataloging is now complete on a significant addition to our Italian statute collection: two bound volumes containing 204 Venetian “Parte Presas”, dating from 1574 to 1655. A “parte presa” is an individual decree issued by the Council of Ten, the Senate (Pregadi), or other legislative body of the Republic of Venice. All of the decrees in these volumes have individual records in our online catalog, MORRIS. Close to half of them are the only copies in WorldCat.

With a couple of rare exceptions, almost all of these decrees bear an image of the Lion of St. Mark (Venice’s patron saint) on their title pages. They are typically brief, consisting of a single folded sheet producing a 4-page leaflet. Lengthier decrees appear in pamphlets of 8, 12, 16, or even 24 pages. A few were published as broadsides. The Venetian government officially promulgated these decrees by posting them in a public place. In many of the leaflets, such as the one shown below, the colophon states the date and place where the decree was posted, in this case “le Scale di San Marco & di Rialto,” the stairs of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Rialto Bridge.


It is unusual to find collections of these decrees in their original bindings, as these are. In the past, some book dealers unfortunately broke such volumes apart to sell the items individually. These two volumes have a high percentage of decrees dealing with criminal law, on topics such as banditry (banditi), dueling, blasphemy, smuggling, and vagrants (vagabondi). One concerns jailhouse snitches. Quite a number are regulations of firearms (archibusi, or arquebuses, and pistoli). Others concern economic regulation including taxation, coinage, cashiers, and debt. Several apply to Venice’s far-flung possessions, such as Verona, Istria, Dalmatia, and Albania.


Aside from their subject matter, the decrees are interesting as examples of job printing in the city known as the printing capital of Europe. The printers include Francesco Rampazetto, an important music publisher. Giovanni Pietro Pinelli is remembered today as a printer of opera librettos. The Pinelli family also published Greek liturgical books for Orthodox churches in the eastern Mediterranean. Their government printing contracts provided a lucrative and steady income.


With the cataloging of these two volumes, our collection now has 272 Venetian parte presas, as well as another 93 from Florence and dozens of broadside decrees from Milan, Turin, Casale Monferrato, Venice, Palermo, Bologna, Rome, Parma, Verona, and Udine.


Thanks to our rare book cataloger, Susan Karpuk.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian
















Anders Winroth
November 6, 2015

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is pleased to host a talk by Professor Anders Winroth on the library’s latest rare book exhibition, “The Pope’s Other Jobs: Judge and Lawgiver.” Winroth, one of the world’s leading experts on medieval law, is the Forst Family Professor of History, Yale University.

The talk will take place on Tuesday, November 10, 12:10pm, in Room 128 of the Sterling Law Building

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT. Cold drinks and dessert provided; feel free to bring your lunch.

The exhibition, “The Pope’s Other Jobs: Judge and Lawgiver,” is on display through December 15, 2015, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library. It illustrates the Pope’s legal responsibilities throughout history using rare books and a medieval manuscript from the Law Library’s outstanding collection. Michael Widener, the Law Library’s Rare Book Librarian, co-curated the exhibition. A catalog of the collection is available for download here.

The exhibition is one of several Yale library exhibitions featured in a YaleNews article.

 

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