Rare Books Blog

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

Further reading:

Dominicus de Sancto Geminiano's Super secunda parte sexti libri decretalium (Rome: Adam   Rot, 1471)
September 26, 2014

The third of Yale Law Library’s four books from 1471 is a canon law commentary: Dominicus de Sancto Geminiano’s Super secunda parte sexti libri decretalium (Rome: Adam Rot, 1471).

The author, Dominicus de Sancto Geminiano (a.k.a. Domenico da San Gimignano), was considered one of the best canonists of his time. He taught law at Bologna’s famous law school, where he earned a doctorate in canon law in 1402, and was an official in the papal law courts. He was a prolific author. This commentary on the Liber Sextus is one of his most important works.


In his Bibliographical Decameron (1817), Thomas Frognall Dibdin refers to the book’s printer, Adam Rot, as “that subtle and coy typographical artist … of whom we know little or nothing in this country.” Not much has been learned since then. Rot was one of the early group of German printers in Rome. The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue lists 37 titles printed by Rot in the period 1471-1474. He published several volumes of consilia by various jurists. He was the first publisher of guidebooks for pilgrims to Rome. The Super secunda parte sexti libri decretalium is Rot’s earliest book bearing an imprint date.


Our copy is printed in roman type, with elegant hand-drawn initials in alternating red and blue, and red paragraph marks.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Gratian's Decretum (Strassburg, 1471)
September 22, 2014

A frequent question from visitors is “What is your oldest book?”. For printed books, there are four contenders for the distinction. All of them were printed in 1471, seventeen years after Johan Gutenberg produced the first printed book, his 42-line Bible. This series of posts will introduce them.

First up is the 1471 edition of Gratian’s Decretum, printed in Strassburg by Heinrich Eggestein. It is the first printed edition of the Decretum, one of the foundational texts of medieval and early modern canon law. Gratian, a 12th-century cleric who became bishop of Chuisi in Tuscany, compiled thousands of authoritative statements of church law and attempted to reconcile the differences. The Decretum was the basic textbook of canon law for centuries, and formed part of the law of the Catholic Church until 1917.

The printer, Heinrich Eggestein, might have first learned the new art of printing from Johan Gutenberg himself at Gutenberg’s workshop in in Mainz, and might have even witnessed the printing of Gutenberg’s Bible. From 1466 to 1488 Eggestein printed books in Strassburg, beginning with a Latin Bible, and printed many books of Roman and canon law.

Eggestein’s 1471 Decretum is one of our prettiest incunables. It is printed in Gothic type, with initials and paragraph marks in alternating red and blue. It is also quite possibly the heaviest book in our collection, weighing in at a whopping 28 lbs.!

For more, see:

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian


Map of Fort Lorenzo, Panama (1740)
September 11, 2014

I picked up a volume to catalog that until recently was in the the Los Angeles County Law Library. We acquired it at auction in London in the spring 2014. The title is De mercatura decisiones, et tractatus varii et di rebus ad eam pertinentibus, published in Cologne in 1622. The volume is about commercial law and contains some decisions of the commercial court in Genoa, as well as various other writings on commercial law. We don’t know how it came into the possession of the LA County Law Library. There is one unusual thing about this volume: our copy has laid in before the title page a map, 14 x 17 cm. Since the land mass looked a little like the shape of Africa, I still wasn’t too surprised. A little closer look, and I saw “to Panama 82 miles.” OK, now I’m interested. I searched the map and found that the Library of Congress has a copy of this map in their Panama Canal collection. The catalog record is beautiful, and it indicates that the reason for the map was the bombardment of Fort San Lorenzo, Panama, in 1740.

Here’s my question. Why did the former owner of this copy of a book on commercial law published in 1622, find it useful to bind in a map of Panama, published in 1740?

– SUSAN KARPUK, Rare Books Cataloger

The Common Law Epitomiz'd
September 2, 2014

“The Common Law Epitomiz’d: Anthony Taussig’s Law Books” is the latest exhibit from the Yale Law Library’s Rare Book collection. It showcases the Law Library’s acquisitions from the greatest private collection of rare English law books ever assembled: the collection of Anthony Taussig.

Anthony Taussig, a London barrister, assembled his outstanding collection of rare law books and manuscripts over a 35-year period.

The exhibit is on display through November 15, 2014, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library (127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT).

The books on display include the very first printed book of English law, the first book on women’s rights in English law, the first justice of the peace manual, notes from Sir William Blackstone’s Oxford lectures, a trove of pamphlets on law reform, and a relic of the opening salvo in the struggle to abolish slavery. The acquisition was made possible by generous grants from Yale Law School’s Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.

The exhibit was curated by Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law Library, and Ryan Greenwood, Rare Book Librarian at the University of Minnesota Law Library and the 2013-14 Yale Law Library Rare Book Fellow.

Running concurrently is “Uncommon Law: A Celebration of the Taussig Collection,” an exhibition at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The exhibition features Taussig’s outstanding collection of legal manuscripts acquired by the Beinecke. It is on display September 5 through December 15.

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

Statuti, e leggi della Valle Seriana Superiore (Bergamo, 1769)
August 15, 2014

The core of our outstanding collection of early Italian municipal statutes is a private collection purchased in 1946. Thanks to Rare Book Cataloger Susan Karpuk, this original collection, “Italian Statutes Collection, 1946 (Accession no. 46-209)”, is now reunited in the Law Library’s online catalog, MORRIS, and can be browsed via a collection-level record here. The link brings together 643 records for printed books and 51 for manuscripts.

The library purchased this collection in 1946 from the Italian bookdealer Nardecchia, in Samuel Thorne’s first year as Law Librarian. In his annual report for the 1945-46 academic year, Thorne wrote:

“The outstanding acquisition of the year was the notable collection of Italian statuta, numbering almost nine hundred volumes, purchased from a learned Italian lawyer who had brought it, over a period of fifty years, to its present completeness. It contained fifty-two manuscripts of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries, nine incunabula, and many sixteenth-century editions, more than a few unknown to Luigi Manzoni whose Bibliografia statutaria e storica italiana is the standard bibliography of the class.”

In 2008, a representative of Nardecchia reported that it had no records of the sale or of the identity of the “learned Italian lawyer” who built the collection. One of the goals in identifying the volumes that made up this collection was to find clues to the collector’s identity. We indeed found some clues, inscriptions in several of the 20th-century volumes, and are in the process of investigating them.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Battista Aimo, De alluvionum iure universo (Bologna, 1580).
July 20, 2014

My friend and collaborator Mark Weiner has produced the latest installment in his series of videos on rare law books. “Water, Paper, Law” is an almost poetic meditation, in which “an eighteenth-century Italian legal treatise about water inspires some thoughts about law, rare books, and the passage of time.” I’ve embedded the video below. You can also view it on Weiner’s Worlds of Law blog. When the video appeared on the Environment, Law, and History blog, blogger David Schorr wrote “I’d love to hear more about these works!”. In partial satisfaction, here’s a list of the books that Mark included in the video:

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian




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