Rare Books Blog

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

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

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


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