“Readers’ Marks in Law Books” exhibit goes online

Fitzherbert, New boke of iustices of peace (1554)
April 28, 2020

If distance or the coronavirus shutdown prevented you from viewing our Spring 2020 exhibition, “Precedents So Scrawl’d and Blurr’d: Readers’ Marks in Law Books,” there is good news. The exhibition is now online, as part of the Yale University Library’s Online Exhibitions website.

The 39 volumes in the exhibition, spanning seven centuries and three continents, were selected for their research potential and for the insights they provide into the roles law books have played in people’s lives. The marks left by readers document the lived experience of the law, and remind us that law is above all a human endeavor. The exhibition is the latest in a series that examine law books as physical artifacts, and the relationships between their form and content.

The exhibition’s title comes from John Anstey’s verse satire of the legal profession, The Pleader’s Guide (1796): “Precedents so scrawl’d and blurr’d / I scarce could read one single word.”

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Sir Thomas Littleton, Les tenures du monsieur Littleton (London: Richard Tottel, 1583).

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