Rare Books Blog

June 11, 2008

Robert F. Blomquist surveyed 426 law professors who have taught legal history for his paper, Thinking About Law and Creativity: On the 100 Most Creative Moments in American Law (Valparaiso University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-04, May 2008). Below I've extracted the books and articles that appear in Blomquist's top 100. I provide links for those books that are in the Yale Law Library's online catalog, MORRIS. Legislation and court cases make up the majority of the list, and I did not include these, although arguably The Federalist (1788) is a component of the #1 creative moment, "The Constitution of the United States (1787) and the ratification debates (1787-1788)."

You can find a brief critique of Blomquist's paper on Mary Dudziak's Legal History Blog.

Most Creative Books in American Law...

15. James Kent, Commentaries on American Law (1826-30).
16. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833).
17. Christopher Columbus Langdell’s initiation of the case method of study at Harvard Law School initiated by his casebook, A Selection of Cases on the Law of Contracts (1871).
18. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law (1881).
27. Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921).
43. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962).
44. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949).
46. Charles Reich, The Greening of America (1970).
54. Richard Posner, Economic Analysis of Law (1973).
55. Hart & Sacks, The Legal Process (1958).
68. Al Gore, Earth in the Balance (1992) and An Inconvenient Truth (2006).
79. The Politics of Law (1982).

Most Creative Law Review Articles in American Law...

45. Justice Douglas’ dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton (1972) (citing Christopher D. Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?--Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects, 45 Southern California Law Review 450 (1972).
75. Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, Right to Privacy, 4 Harvard Law Review 193 (1890).

Rare Book Librarian

June 1, 2008

Spring 2008 has been a busy season for acquisitions in the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.

The American trials collection grew by thirty titles in Spring 2008. These included The Fall River Tragedy: A History Of The Borden Murders (1893); a bizarre recreation of the Lindbergh kidnapping (Criminal File Exposed!, 1933): the Amistad trial (New England Anti-Slavery Almanac, 1841; see image ar right); the adultery trial of the Rev. Joy Fairchild (Boston, 1845); censorship of abolition literature (Remarks on the Decision of the Appeal Court of South-Carolina, in the Case of Wells, 1835), sidewalk preaching in New York City (Account of the Trial of John Edwards, 1822); Rev. Henry Ward Beecher’s adultery trial (True History of the Brooklyn Scandal, 1878), and murder trials aplenty (The Most Foul and Unparalleled Murder in the Annals of Crime: Life and Confession of Reuben A. Dunbar, 1851; Account of the Short Life and Ignominious Death of Stephen Merrill Clark, 1821; Trial of Henry G. Green, for the Murder of His Wife, 1845; Trial of Rev. Mr. Avery, 1833; Report of the Trial of William Henry Theodore Durrant, 1899).

Seven titles were added to the William Blackstone Collection. The most notable is an apparently unrecorded variant of Eller 180, Commentaire sur le code criminel d’Angleterre (2 vols., 1776), still in its original paper wrappers. Two somewhat ephemeral items testify to Blackstone’s role in debates through the years. Our Legal Heritage (2001), by Judge Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of Alabama who lost his judgeship for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom, contains a lengthy excerpt from Blackstone with commentary by Judge Moore. An 8-page pamphlet by the English mystic John Ward is titled This penny book proves clearly that the bishops and clergy are religious imposters, who falsely pretend to an extraordinary commissio[n] from Heaven, and terrify and abuse the Peop[le] with false denunciations of judgment, and as suc[h] by the present laws of England, according [to] Blackstone’s Commentaries, vol. IV, p. 62, a[re] liable to fine. imprisonment, and infamo[us] corporeal punishment. This pamphlet also contains a true song, of 18 verses, against priestcraft and oppression to be sung to the tune of the Vicar and Moses (Birmingham, 1832).

Another 18 volumes of Italian statutes and related treatises were acquired, including statutes of Vicenza (1675), Trento (1640), and Milan (1800), as well as ordinances for the notaries’ guild of Cremona (1597), the Bergamo marketplace (1701), the legal profession in Bergamo (1795), and the pawnbrokers of Vicenza (1676). The 1718 edition of the agricultural statutes of Rome, Gli statuti dell’ agricoltura, includes illustrations of the life cycle of locusts.

In all, thirty of the titles acquired in Spring 2008 sported illustrations. San Antonio tax attorney Farley P. Katz donated two long-sought French codes filled with colorful and humorous images by the illustrator Joseph Hémard: the deluxe edition of Code général des impôts directs et taxes assimilées (1944; see image at right), and Code civil: Livre premier, Des personnes (1925). Katz recently published a study of Hemard’s tax code that reproduces several of the illustrations: “The Art of Taxation: Joseph Hémard’s Illustrated Tax Code,” 60 Tax Lawyer 163 (2006). We acquired two more illustrated French codes perhaps inspired by Hémard: the Code Napoléon rendered into verse with 60 risqué woodcuts by Pierre Noël (1932-33), and the Code Pénal (1950) with illustrations by Jean Dratz (1950). The Coutumes generales d’Artois (1756) has eight large woodcuts depicting the judicial process. Joost de Damhoudere’s Practycke in criminele saecken (1642) has dozens of woodcuts depicting crimes and criminal procedure.

I highlighted gifts from Mrs. Beverly M. Manne and Mr. Harold I. Boucher in previous posts, and I am happy to repeat my thanks again.


Rare Book Librarian

May 29, 2008

I recommend two recent meditations on the present and future roles of rare book libraries and special collections:

Both Darnton and Turner argue that today's digital information world makes rare books & manuscript collections more important, and not simply as mines for content creators.

Several of my favorite "oldies but goodies" in this vein are by Daniel Traister at the University of Pennsylvania.

Finally, two blogs worth checking out:

  • On Bibliophagist the rare book dealer Garrett Scott encourages "low-spot collecting" (see The Gee-Whiz Factor) and muses on The Modern American Library, as well as extolling the virtues of the Bug-House Poet.
  • BibliOdyssey, dedicated to "Books - Illustrations - Science - History - Visual Materia Obscura - Eclectic Bookart", is a consistently satisfying feast for the eyes and the mind, as well as an instructive exercise in data mining. The curator, Paul K. of Sydney, brings together an incredible variety of graphic material in books, manuscripts, advertising, and ephemera from around the world.

Rare Book Librarian

May 19, 2008

The Yale Law Library has finished cataloging the Roman-Canon Law Collection of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (ABCNY). This means that all of this rich and valuable collection is accessible to researchers via the Law Library’s online catalog, MORRIS.

A round of applause is due to Susan Karpuk and the two catalogers who worked under her direction on this project, Ruth Alcabes and Maureen Hayes. Susan described this cataloging project in a recent article, “Processing a Large Acquisition of 16th-19th Century Roman-Canon Law Books at the Yale Law Library,” LH&RB 14:1 (Winter 2008), which is available online at <http://www.aallnet.org/sis/lhrb/>.

The Law Library is grateful for the generous support from the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund, Yale Law School, for funding the acquisition and cataloging. Thanks also to Richard Tuske, Director of Library Operations at the ABCNY, and to the ABCNY’s Board of Directors, for making this acquisition possible.

The ABCNY’s Roman-Canon Law Collection contains 1197 titles in 1754 physical volumes, and arrived in August 2006 on permanent loan. Its acquisition represents a quantum leap in our already strong holdings in Roman and canon law, making the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection one of the premier libraries for research in European legal history.

The work pictured at right, Martin Sánchez’ Arbor dividui et individui (1538) is one of several that are the only copies in U.S. libraries according to WorldCat. The oldest imprint is a 1501 compilation of the regulations for the Papal Chancery. The collection also includes one manuscript volume, an 18th-century digest of Roman-Dutch law.

There are 80 volumes of the decisions of the Rota Romana, the Vatican’s highest court and for centuries one of Europe’s most important courts. There are 16 collections of consilia, the legal opinions given out (for a fee) by leading jurists at the request of institutions, rulers and others.

The collection is valuable not only for legal history but for the history of the book. Many of the early volumes retain their original bindings. Six of the volumes were once academic prizes, presented to outstanding students in the 17th-18th centuries in elegant bindings. The bindings and ownership marks suggest that most of the books were originally in German or Austrian collections. The ABCNY acquired many of the volumes in 1904 from the library of Konrad von Maurer (1823-1902), professor at the University of Munich and an influential historian of Scandinavian law.

I could go on and on about the treasures and curiosities in the ABCNY’s Roman-Canon Law Collection. I’ve highlighted some of the individual volumes in recent posts and there is more to come. For now, you can browse the entire collection via a collection-level record in our online catalog, MORRIS. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.


Rare Book Librarian

May 10, 2008

Henry G. Manne, one of the founders of the Law & Economics movement, celebrates his 80th birthday on May 10, 2008. To mark this event, his sister-in-law Beverly M. Manne of Houston, Texas, has funded the acquisition of a book in his honor for the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection.

Professor Manne, Dean Emeritus of the George Mason University School of Law, is a distinguished alumnus of the Yale Law School (LL.M. ’53, S.J.D. ’66). His 1966 S.J.D. thesis at Yale Law School, Inside Information and the Entrepreneur, was the basis for his widely reviewed and controversial book, Insider Trading and the Stock Market (New York: Free Press, 1966). He is also known as an innovator in U.S. legal education.

The book that Ms. Manne and I selected to honor Professor Manne is Thomas Mortimer’s Every Man His Own Broker: or, a Guide to Exchange-Alley (London, 1765). This vade mecum for investors includes an overview of the laws governing brokers. Elizabeth Hennessy described Mortimer and his book in Coffee House to Cyber Market: Two Hundred Years of the London Stock Exchange (2001):

One of the most knowledgeable and persistent critics of brokers’ trade in securities was Thomas Mortimer whose book Every Man His Own Broker appeared in fourteen editions between 1761 and 1801, and was translated into German, Dutch, French and Italian. According to his own account he wrote because of an unhappy experience at Jonathan’s in 1756, and the work is certainly hostile to jobbers and speculators; like many of his contemporaries he was deeply perturbed by what he saw as unnecessary trading in Government funds. However, his detailed advice to the public on how to buy and sell successfully gives one of the best pictures of stock broking in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Professor Manne has provided an excellent capsule history of the Law & Economics movement in his online essay, An Intellectual History of the George Mason University School of Law. See also the biographical sketch of Professor Manne at the end.

Thanks to my fellow Texan, Ms. Beverly Manne, for her generous and thoughtful gift. And to Professor Manne, Happy 80th Birthday!


Rare Book Librarian

May 6, 2008

History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue (1859) is a lengthy and detailed account of the arrest of John, a fugitive slave belonging to John G. Bacon of Kentucky who was residing in Oberlin, Ohio. John was liberated by a band Ohio citizens, led by Simeon Bushnell and Charles Langston. The two leaders were put on trial for interfering with the arrest of a fugitive slave, and the trial was followed by Ohio indictments against the slavehunters on kidnapping charges. All these events are narrated in detail in the 280-page book, as well as the mass meetings organized throughout the North by abolitionists to drum up support for the rescuers.

History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue demonstrates that accounts of fugitive slave trials had become profitable publishing ventures. It was produced by a consortium of three publishers (John P. Jewett and Co. of Boston, Henry P.B. Jewett of Cleveland, and Sheldon and Co. of New York City). The American Antiquarian Society has a broadside advertisement for the book:

“AGENTS WANTED! To sell The History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue!! A book that everybody wants! And will buy at the first opportunity! … We want agents enough to canvass every school-district in Ohio, and every state north of Mason’s and Dixon’s line. So saleable a book on such lucrative terms is offered only once in a long while, as everybody knows. Now is the time! Arrangements can be made for agencies west of Cleveland with H.P.B. Jewett, Cleveland; eastward, with John P. Jewett & Co., Boston. Any inquiries answered by Jacob R. Shipherd, Oberlin.”

The American Memory site at the Library of Congress provides the full text and images of History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue

[From Race on the Stand: African-American History in the Law Library’s American Trials Collection, presented Feb. 20, 2008, at the Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University.]


Rare Book Librarian

May 5, 2008

The Arrest, Trial, and Release of Daniel Webster, A Fugitive Slave (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, 1859) is a journalistic narrative. The anonymous author records not only the trial, but the pre-trial proceedings, conversations with the sheriff, and the actions of the crowds that were on hand. The pamphlet provides evidence on the communications networks of abolitionists and how they rallied supporters to intervene in the proceedings. It preserves the voices of the participants, including Mr. Webster, who won his freedom in a hearing before a U.S. Commissioner.

Like many other accounts of fugitive slave trials, this pamphlet was published by an interest group, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. It was inexpensive, quickly produced, and easily mailed.

[From Race on the Stand: African-American History in the Law Library’s American Trials Collection, presented Feb. 20, 2008, at the Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University.]


Rare Book Librarian


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