Finished! The ABCNY Roman-Canon Law Collection is completely cataloged.

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 <>.

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

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