Rare books in the classroom

April 3, 2008

I presented examples from our canon and Roman law collections to the 40 students in Professor James Whitman's "Western Legal Tradition" class on March 31, 2008. The books represented many of the major genres of European legal literature from the medieval and early modern periods. They included a medieval canon law manuscript (the Clementines, 14th century); an early incunable of Justinian's Institutes (Institutiones Justiniani, Basel 1476, with an early reader's tree diagram of Roman law concepts), an early German translation of the Institutes (Frankfurt 1536, the only U.S. copy in WorldCat), Azo's famous commentary on the Code (Lectura Azonis, Paris 1581), Bartolus' Consilia, or legal opinions (Venice 1590), an early guide to court procedure (Ordo iudiciarius, Paris 1515), a potpourri of legal texts for students and practitioners (Modus legendi abbreviaturas : Tractatus iudiciorum Bartholi : tractatus renuntiationm beneficiorum in publicis instrumentis : processus Sathane : ars notariatus, Cologne 1505), and finally, a charming little study guide for law students (Repertorium Aureum, Cologne 1495), which contains a mnemonic poem to help students memorize canon law texts.

Thanks to Professor Whitman for the invitation, and to the students for their questions and interest. I had a great time, and I learned a lot as well. Highly recommended: Whitman's article, "A Note on the Medieval Division of the Digest," 59 Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 269 (1991).


Rare Book Librarian


Professor James Whitman and two students from his "Western

Legal Traditions" class examine the Lectura Azonis (1581).

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