"Race in American Trials Collection" research guide goes online
A brief research guide, Researching Race in the American Trials Collection, is now online. A link to the guide is in the Law Library's Research page, under the heading "Legal Research Guides. While the guide's focus is on trials involving slavery, segregation, and related issues, it's also helpful for researching other topics in the American Trials Collection. Additional slavery resources are available via the Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal.
We've added about 100 titles to the American Trials Collection in the last year, including Trial of Thomas Sims, on an Issue of Personal Liberty (Boston, 1851), described by Paul Finkelman as the most complete record of "the first important and intensive investigation of the meaning of the 1850 [Fugitive Slave] Act" (Slavery in the Courtroom, p. 94). This pamphlet is also available online, courtesy of the American Memory website of the Library of Congress.
Rare Book Librarian
Recent rare book acquisitions, Winter 2008-2009
Here are a few of the highlights from our acquisitions in the past three months.
For our growing collection of illustrated law books:
- Quadruvium ecclesie (Paris, 1509) by Johann Hugonis de Sletstat (a.k.a. Johann Hug), considered the first text on German constitutional law; only one other copy in the U.S. (Robbins Collection). See the image at right.
- The first edition in German of Damhoudere’s Praxis rerum criminalium (Frankfurt, 1565), a standard work on the criminal law of northern Europe with woodcuts illustrating crimes and criminal procedure; the only U.S. copy.
- Juristische Ergötzlichkeiten vom Jungfrauen-Rechte (Frankfurt & Leipzig, 1715) bound with Juristische Ergötzlichkeiten vom Jung-Gesellen Rechte (Frankfurt & Leipzig, 1723), a pair of little books on law for young women and young men, respectively, with charming frontispieces; the only U.S. copies.
- Two standard works, Justinian’s Institutes (1516) and the Liber Sextus (1514) in lovely editions published by the Giunta family in Venice, with dozens of woodcut illustrations. They join an illustrated Giunta edition of the Decretals (1514) we acquired 60 years ago.
- Esdaile’s Temple Church Monuments (London, 1933) showing the tombs of Edmund Plowden and John Selden.
- Jesse Turner’s A Page from the English State Trials (1907?) extra-illustrated with 55 plates.
- Several 19th-century trials adorned with portraits of the accused and/or their victims.
- Fire on the Nunnery Grounds (2000), a graphic novel based on the the arson attack on the Ursuline Convent in Boston. We also obtained The Charlestown Convent: Its Destruction by a Mob, on the Night of August 11, 1834 (Boston, 1870), an account of the attack and the trials that followed.
We have acquired several law-related children’s books to join the Juvenile Jurisprudence Collection donated by Professor Morris L. Cohen, including:
- Jehoshaphat Aspin, The Constitution of England, or, Magna-Charta, Bill of Rights, Habeas Corpus, and All the Other Laws of England: Familiarly Explained for the Instruction of Youth; Illustrated with an Analytical Chart of the Government of Great Britain, Elegantly Coloured (London, 1810).
- Cruel Jim: and Other Stories (Philadelphia, 1869), a cautionary tale of how cruel children grow into career criminals.
- The Tragi-comic History of the Burial of Cock Robin: with The Lamentation of Jenny Wren; The Sparrow's Apprehension; and The Cuckoo's Punishment (Philadelphia, 1811); printed by John Bouvier, author of the first American law dictionary.
The American Trials Collection grew by 28 titles, including:
- Several trials featuring female victims: The Authentic Life of Mrs. Mary Ann Bickford (Boston, 1846); Lizzie Nutt's Sad Experience (Philadelphia, 1886), Myron Buel, the Murderer of Catharine Mary Richards (Binghamton, NY, 1879), Poor Mary Pomeroy! (Philadelphia, 1874), Trial for Libel: Susanna Torrey, Plaintiff (Fayetteville, VT, 1835), Confession of John Joyce: Who Was Executed on Monday, the 14th of March 1808, for the Murder of Mrs. Sarah Cross, with an Address to the Public and People of Colour (Philadelphia, 1808).
- A Report of the Trial, of James Sylvanus M'Clean (Philadelphia, 1812), an early use of the insanity plea, involving an extortion attempt against Stephen Girard, the wealthiest American of his time.
- More murder trials: Cluverius: My Life, Trial and Conviction (Richmond, 1887); Report of the Trial of Dominic Daley and James Halligan for the Murder of Marcus Lyon (Northampton, MA, 1806); Confession of Jesse Strang (Albany, 1827); Report of the Trials of the Murderers of Richard Jennings (Newburgh, NY, 1819); Trial of John Schild (1813).
- And... a small collection of manuscript court documents and transcripts relating to the trial of William Fitzgerald, accused of murdering a Shawnee Indian in Indiana Territory in 1802.
Additions to our William Blackstone Collection included:
And a few odds & ends:
Rare Book Librarian
African-American History in our American Trials Collection, #5
The sesquicentennial of the infamous Dred Scott decision was marked in 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property and not citizens; they could not bring suit in federal court; and because slaves were private property, the federal government could not revoke a slave owner's right to own a slave based on where he lived. The decision threatened to open U.S. territories to slavery, and was one of the preludes to the Civil War.
The decision itself was published in several editions, and is widely accessible. It generated a large amount of pamphlet literature, which is not so accessible. An example from the Yale Law Library's Rare Book Collection is A Legal Review of the Case of Dred Scott, by John Lowell and Horace Gray. (In 1881 Gray became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and in 1898 authored a decision that a child born in United States to foreign parents is automatically a citizen of the United States.)
Our copy is inscribed, "Hon. Roger S. Baldwin with the authors' compliments." Roger Sherman Baldwin (Yale 1845) served Connecticut as governor and U.S. Senator, and was one of the attorneys who defended the African captives in the Amistad case. It was one of thousands of volumes donated to the Yale Law Library by his son, Simeon E. Baldwin (Yale 1861), one of the most outstanding professors in the history of the Yale Law School. The inscription illustrates how pamphlets like this one were part of the information networks among anti-slavery lawyers and activists.
For more information, see the Wikipedia articles on Roger Sherman Baldwin and Simeon E. Baldwin, and the accompanying links. There are a number of excellent websites on the Dred Scott decision. An excellent starting place is the Library of Congress Web Guide on Dred Scott v. Sandford.
Rare Book Librarian