Rare Books Blog

January 23, 2015

“Murder and Women in 19th-Century America: Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library”

An exhibition talk by

Friday, January 30
11:00am – 12:00pm
Room 122, Yale Law School
127 Wall Street, New Haven CT

“Murder and Women in 19th-Century America,” the current exhibition of the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection, will be the subject of a talk on January 30 by the exhibition curators, Mike & Emma Widener. This colorful exhibit draws on the library’s outstanding collection of American trial literature.

The exhibition talk is scheduled for 11am on Friday, January 30, in Room 122 of the Yale Law School, 127 Wall Street. It is free and open to the public.

The illustrated talk will cover the place of these sensational trial accounts in 19th-century popular reading, their research value, tools for researching them, and the fascinating stories they tell.

Mike Widener is the Rare Book Librarian in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. Emma Molina Widener has just retired from a 20-year career teaching college Spanish at the University of Texas, Austin Community College, the University of New Haven, Yale University, and most recently at Southern Connecticut State University.

The exhibit, “Murder and Women in 19th-Century America: Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library,” is on display through February 21, 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).

The exhibit can also be viewed in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.

For more information, contact Mike Widener at (203) 432-4494, email <mike.widener@yale.edu>.

Morris L. Cohen
January 14, 2015

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Seventh Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting, July 18-21, 2015, in Philadelphia. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: http://www.aallnet.org/sections/lhrb/awards. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., March 16, 2015 (EST).

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Arms of Pope Pius V
December 17, 2014

One of our most interesting recent acquisitions is a papal bull against bullfighting: Bulla S.D. N. Pii Pape V. Super prohibitione agitationis Taurorum & Ferarum, & annulatione votorum & iuramentorum, super eisdem pro tempore interpositorum (Rome: heirs of Antonio Blado, 1567). Papal bulls are decrees issued by the Pope. This particular bull is considered one of the foundation documents of the animal protection movement.

A Yale Law School LL.M. student, Raffael Nicolas Fasel, saw the bull on a tour of the Rare Book Collection and offered to write about it. I am pleased to welcome Raffael as a guest blogger. His piece fits well with the Christmas spirit. – MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


De Salute Gregis Dominici: A Papal Bull Banning Bullfighting in 1567

by Raffael Nicolas Fasel

LL.M. candidate, Yale Law School

Although the spectacles of the Roman Colosseum and other staged fights between human and non-human animals are long past, bullfighting persists in some parts of the modern world. Today, the so-called corridas de toros are being held not only in Spain, Portugal and Southern France, but also in Latin American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru.

It is estimated that each year approximately 10,000 bulls are killed in these fights. Because of the torment that is caused to the animals – predominantly bulls, but also the horses used by lancers who stab the bulls – many regard bullfighting as an archaic and barbaric tradition.

For this reason, numerous countries have adopted prohibitions on bullfighting. In these countries, the practice is either forbidden by a specific ban – as in the case of the Catalan bullfighting ban from 2012 – or by a more general anti-cruelty statute.

However, banning bullfighting is not as recent a phenomenon as one would think. Already half a millennium before Catalonia’s ban, the Catholic Church adopted an interdiction of bullfighting and similar types of blood sports that involve animals. In 1567 the pope, St. Pius V, issued a papal bull titled Super prohibitione agitationis Taurorum & Ferarum (“An injunction forbidding bullfights and similar sports with wild animals”), and commonly referred to as “De Salute Gregis Dominici” (“On the welfare of the Lord’s flock”). The bull is one of the treasures in the Rare Book Collection of the Yale Law Library.

In his bull, Pope Pius V “removed from Christian piety and charity” any spectacles “in which bulls and other wild animals are challenged in circuses and plazas.” Under penalty of excommunication, the bull forbade staging and attending fights in which men confronted bulls or other wild animals. Bullfights and similar events are denounced by the bull as constituting “cruel and base spectacles of the devil and not of man.”

In the legal system of the Catholic Church, the 1567 bull has lost some of its importance because later popes, Gregory XIII and Clement VIII, limited the ban on attending bullfights to members of the clergy and to spectacles taking place on religious holidays. However, Pius V’s bull has never been directly repealed by another bull or provision of canon law. Like all other papal bulls, the 1567 bull has been endowed with perpetual validity in accordance with the formula “ad perpetuam rei memoriam” (“for a permanent record of the matter”), which is stated in its very beginning. Therefore, to the extent that the bull has not been overridden by any subsequent provisions, it remains in force.

In comparison with modern-day animal protection laws, the 1567 bull adheres to what is nowadays seen as an outdated anthropocentric model of animal protection. Pope Pius V was not so much concerned with the well-being of the animals themselves, but rather with the salvation and the welfare of the Lord’s flock, that is, the Christians. It was not until the 19th century that animal protection statutes were adopted for the animals’ own sakes.

As a precursor of these more modern and secular prohibitions of bullfighting, however, pope Pius V’s “De Salute Gregis Dominici” bull remains an important point of reference.

A digitized version of the 1567 Super prohibitione agitationis Taurorum & Ferarum is available here, in Internet Culturale, the web portal to digital collections in Italian libraries.

A partial English translation of the bull is provided on the website of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness).

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has a discussion of Pius V’s bull on its website; for an alternate view, see “The Morality of the Bullfight” on the Saint Louis Catholic blog.

Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634)
November 29, 2014

Books from our Rare Book Collection once again are the stars in a video by my friend Mark Weiner. The latest video is titled “On Looking into Coke’s Reports” and the stars are the two most important works authored by the famous English jurist Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634): The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England (3rd ed.; London, 1633), commonly known as Coke on Littleton; and the first volume of Coke’s Reports, Les Reports de Edward Coke l’Attorney Generall le Roigne (London, 1601?). In supporting roles are some of the manuscript case reports that once belonged to Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676), another great English judge who authored the landmark treatise on English criminal law, Pleas of the Crown (1678).

In his Worlds of Law blog, Weiner writes that his video essay “is about rare books, jazz, the passage of time, and old movies … and the law reports of the great jurist Edward Coke.”

— MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Trial, Sentence, Confession and Execution of Joel Clough (1833)
November 22, 2014

New Yale Law Library exhibit…

Murder and Women in 19th-Century America:
Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library

Murder trials have long been a subject of sensational treatment in popular culture, and murder trials involving women, as the accused or the victims, especially so.

The latest exhibit from the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book Collection features 19th-century illustrated pamphlets that document the public’s fascination with these trials.

The exhibit, “Murder and Women in 19th-Century America: Trial Accounts in the Yale Law Library,” is curated by Emma Molina Widener (Department of World Languages, Southern Connecticut State University) and Michael Widener (Rare Book Librarian, Yale Law Library). It is on display through February 21, 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).

The exhibit can also be viewed in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.

Murder trial pamphlets are a rich source for studying popular culture and the history of the book, as well as legal history. Trials involving women are especially valuable for the study of 19th-century gender roles. With the exception of slavery trials, no genre of 19th-century legal literature is better served by research tools than murder trials.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Ann Jordan Laeuchli
October 21, 2014

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is at the same time delighted to report the publication of Ann Jordan Laeuchli’s Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone (Buffalo, NY: Published for Yale Law Library by William S. Hein & Co., 2015) and deeply saddened to report the death of its author.

Ann Laeuchli passed away on September 26, a mere four days after receiving her personal copies of her magnum opus, a work that she spent two decades preparing, the last few years with the able assistance and editorship of James E. Mooney. Ann served the Yale Law Library as its Associate Law Librarian from 1984 to 1993 during the directorship of the late, great Morris L. Cohen. It was Morris who encouraged Ann to undertake the Blackstone bibliography. She dedicated the book to Morris, “my director, my mentor, my friend.”

A Bibliographical Catalog of William Blackstone supercedes and surpasses the work that until now was the standard bibliography, Catherine Spicer Eller’s The William Blackstone Collection in the Yale Law Library: A Bibliographical Catalogue (New Haven: Published for the Yale Law Library by the Yale University Press, 1938). The 266 entries in Eller included only the Blackstone collection at Yale, while Laeuchli’s 672 entries cover all editions of Blackstone’s works published in the Roman alphabet, plus biographies, criticisms, catalogs, prospectuses, exhibitions, microtexts, and electronic resources.

Laeuchli’s bibliography is a fitting tribute to Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), whose Commentaries on the Laws of England (1st ed. 1765-1769) remains the single most influential book in the history of Anglo-American common law. As Morris Cohen wrote in his Foreword, “It is hard to imagine a legal figure whose works are more deserving of bibliographic coverage than William Blackstone.”

As the home of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Blackstoniana, the Yale Law Library supported Laeuchli’s project enthusiastically and is honored to sponsor its publication.

Following Ann Laeuchli’s death, her family returned to the library a very special book that was the foundation of Ann’s project: a copy of Eller’s 1938 Blackstone bibliography, inscribed on the cover “Personal copy of Catherine S. Eller Annotated”, interleaved and filled with Eller’s notes on Blackstone editions to add. We thank the Laeuchli family, and we join with them in mourning the death of a wonderful woman and celebrating her achievements.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Albericus de Maletis, Tractatus seu apparatus de testibus (ca. 1471), colophon
September 26, 2014

Continuing with a review of the earliest printed books in the Yale Law Library, we move from Strassburg in 1471 to Naples, and a printer who learned his craft in Strassburg.

The printer’s name was Sixtus Reissinger, the first printer in Naples. He was part of a wave of Germans who introduced printing in Italy, and who also pioneered the use of roman typefaces. Reissinger partnered with Ulrich Han on the first book printed in Rome. By around 1470 Reissinger moved to Naples, where he was active until 1478. He returned to Germany for a time. From 1481 to 1484, the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue shows him printing again in Rome.

Law books formed a significant part of Riessinger’s output, mostly commentaries and treatises by authors such as Baldus and Bartolus. He also published classics including Cicero and Ovid, as well as religious works.

We own one of the rarer products of Riessinger’s press, the Tractatus seu apparatus de testibus by Albericus de Maletis (Naples: Sixtus Riessinger, ca. 1471), a brief treatise on witnesses in Roman law. It is the only copy of this edition in the United States; ISTC reports only two other copies in Germany and three in Italy.

— MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

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