Learning the Law: Notebooks

Notes on Imperatoris Iustiniani Institutionum libri IV, 1642
November 15, 2018
A selection student notebooks and marginalia



Imperatoris Iustiniani Institutionum libri IV. Amsterdam: Joan & Cornelis Blaeu, 1642.

This copy of Justinian’s Institutes combines a number of interesting design elements. The original text of the Institutes – in the center of the small printed page –  is surrounded by later printed commentary, or gloss. This left no room for marginal notes, which this volume’s owner rectified by interleaving the printed volume with blank pages to allow for his extensive annotations.


Sir Samson Eure. Doctrina placitandi, ou L’art & science de bon pleading. London: Printed by the assigns of R. and E. Atkins Esquires, for Robert Pawlet …, 1677. Interleaved with notes by Samuel Kekewich (1783).

The creation of commonplace books was once a popular method of legal study. It consisted of entering notes on case law, statutes, and lectures in notebooks under alphabetically arranged topics. The printed book here, a treatise on pleading, is organized like a commonplace book. At least a century after it was printed, its owner, Samuel Kekewich, converted it into a commonplace book by interleaving it with blank pages, giving him the space to add material of his own.


~Ryan R. Martins, Rare Book Fellow

“Learning the Law: The Book in Early Legal Education” is on display October 1 to December 14, 2018, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

A full catalogue of the exhibit can be found here.


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