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
 

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

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.

 

Cerro Gordo / Tlahuilco
October 15, 2015

October 15 is the final day in Hispanic Heritage Month. The final installment in our Hispanic Heritage Month series is on two fascinating manuscripts from Mexico, which we acquired this month. One of the manuscripts is an investigation of a land deal in 1589, and the other is a lawsuit from from 1777-1782, filed by Indian villagers.

While separated in time by two centuries, the lands in question are only a mile apart. They are located on the northeastern fringe of modern-day Mexico City, on the way to the pyramids of Teotihuacán. In addition, both have simple hand-drawn maps with features suggesting they were drawn by the area’s original Nahua inhabitants.

The 1589 manuscript collects from an investigation ordered by the Viceroy of New Spain, Álvaro Manrique de Zúñiga, invoving a claim by Hernando Jaramillo to land in Tepexpan (see map). There are depositions from both Indian and Spanish inhabitants, and a lengthy census of all the land owners in the neighborhood. The map includes Aztec glyphs for maguey and cactus pears, to indicate the agricultural production of Cerro Gordo, “which the Indians call Tlahuilcoc”; see the detail shown here at the upper left. The manuscript ends with a criminal accusation by Jaramillo against a neighbor who attacked him and forcibly ejected him from his home. Spoiler alert: Jaramillo won.

The later manuscript is a petition by the Indian inhabitants of Iztapa (today called Santa Isabel Ixtapan), just to the south of Tepexpan. They sought to recover lands they claimed had been given them by the Jesuits before the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain in 1767. The manuscript includes a wonderfully detailed map, shown below. Note the trail of footprints that indicate the roadway.


My thanks to Salomon Rosenthal of Librería Urbe for his informative descriptions of the manuscripts.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Constitución política de la monarquía española (1812)
October 14, 2015

Our Hispanic Heritage Month series would not be complete without mentioning our largest single acquisition of Hispanic legal materials in recent memory: a collection 21 volumes containing 25 titles on 19th-century Spanish constitutions, especially the famous Constitution of Cádiz of 1812. The image at left is from the title page of its first edition (Cádiz: Imprenta Real, 1812).

The Constitution of Cadiz and its immediate predecessor, the Constitution of Bayona, emerged from the political and social crises of the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Spain in 1808 and replaced the Bourbon monarch Fernando VII with his brother Joseph. My friend and colleague Matthew Mirow gives an excellent summary of its significance:

“[The Constitution of Cadiz] is often considered one of the first liberal constitutions in Europe and in America. Like the United States Constitution, the Constitution of Cddiz had great influence during the drafting of the first constitutions of the Americas during the independence period. This document, consisting of 384 articles in about forty pages of text, established sovereignty in the nation and not in the king. The Roman Catholic religion received substantial preference under the Constitution, and the practice of other religions was prohibited. The text included provisions that evinced a liberal bias: representative elections at multiple levels of government, restrictions on the power of the king, rights to property, and rights for the criminally accused. Because the Constitution was drafted by deputies representing not only peninsular Spain but also the American provinces, it was the first truly transatlantic constitution, and the American influences on the Constitution and vice-versa have been a subject of substantial speculation, historical scholarship, and debate.” – M.C. Mirow, “Pre-Constitutional Law and Constitutions: Spanish Colonial Law and the Constitution of Cádiz,” 12 Washington University Global Studies Law Review 313 (2013), at 315.

The richness of our collection is not only in the various editions of the constitutions themselves, but also in the texts that propose, discuss, and explain the constitutions. In addition to the first edition of the Constitution of Cádiz (shown above), other highlights include:

Alvaro Flórez Estrada’s Constitución para la nación española (Birmingham: Swinney y Ferrall, 1810) is a proposed draft of a new constitution by one of Spain’s leading liberals. Flórez Estrada published his proposed draft of a new constitution while in England. At the end is his vigorous plea for freedom of the press.

This proposed draft of the Constitution of Cádiz was published in Mexico City, a reminder of its transatlantic reach. Many of the delegates to the Cortes that ratified the constitution were from Latin America.

The illustrated edition of 1822 is my personal favorite. Allegorical images depict the adoption of the Constitution of Cádiz and each of its ten titles. In his proposal to Congress, the artist, José María de Santiago, proposed a book that combined the splendor that such a precious text deserved with the convenience of a pocket size. Our copy is the only one in the U.S., according to OCLC.


An 1836 Alicante edition of the Constitution of Cádiz, extremely rare, bears the bookplate of María Cristina de Borbón, Queen consort of Fernando VII, and regent for her infant daughter Isabella II.


The frontispiece of the Constitution of 1837 (Madrid: Imprenta Nacional, 1837) bears an allegorical portrait of María Cristina de Borbón, depicting her as “the Restorer of Spanish Liberty”. Her regency set off the Carlist Wars, and when her re-marriage to an ex-sergeant in her guard came to light, the scandalized Spanish exiled her to France.

Below is a complete list of our newly acquired Spanish Constitutions collection. Hopefully its research value will inspire students and scholars to exploit it.


– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


CONSTITUTION OF BAYONA

CONSTITUTION OF CADIZ

CONSTITUTION OF 1837

CONSTITUTION OF 1876

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