New exhibit: "The Comic Art of Joseph Hémard"
It would take a genius to illustrate one of the most boring books imaginable, a code of tax laws, and create a comic tour-de-force. That genius was Joseph Hémard (1880-1961), who in his lifetime was probably France's most prolific book illustrator. His illustrations are the focus of the latest exhibit in the Yale Law Library, "'And then I drew for books': The Comic Art of Joseph Hémard."
The exhibit, on display until December 15, is curated by Farley P. Katz and Michael Widener. Katz, a tax attorney from San Antonio, has built one of the world's finest collections of Hémard's works. Widener is the Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library.
Hémard's illustrations have a distinctly French character, usually comic, and often mildly erotic. Many of his illustrations were executed in pochoir, a hand stenciling process producing intense, gorgeous colors still vibrant after three-quarters of a century.
The exhibit showcases eight of the 183 illustrations in Hémard's Tax Code, donated to the Yale Law Library by Katz, along with two of the other three law books on display from the library's Rare Book Collection.
The other 19 titles on view are all from Katz's personal collection. They include children's books and some of the many classics of French literature that Hémard illustrated, such as works by Balzac and Anatole France. Items on war include Hémard's own pictorial account of his time as a German prisoner in World War I, and a set of anti-Hitler postcards. Hémard even illustrated a pharmacy manual and a pamphlet on the prostate.
The exhibition's title comes from Hémard's tongue-in-cheek autobiography. Following a long, rambling description of supposed ancestors, he devotes two paragraphs to his early life, and finishes with: "And then I drew for books."
The exhibit is open to the public, 9am-10pm daily, September 15 - December 15, 2012 in the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School. It will also go online here in the Yale Law Library Rare Books Blog.
On October 5, Katz will give an exhibit talk at 1:00 p.m. in Room 128 of the Yale Law School. The talk is also open to the public.
-- MIKE WIDENER
Rare Book Librarian
The poster illustration is from the cover of Code penal: commentaires imagés de Joseph Hémard (Paris: Editions Littéraires de France, ca. 1940), Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.
New book with our images
A new book by José Cárdenas Bunsen, Escritura y Derecho Canónico en la obra de fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Madrid: Iberoamericana-Vervuert, 2011), includes several illustrations taken from the Rare Book Collection, including those adorning the cover. The images come from the 1514 editions of the Liber Sextus of Boniface VIII and the Decretals of Gregory IX, issued by the Venetian printer Luca Antonio Giunta.
Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) is considered a pioneer in the campaign for human rights.He participated in the Spanish conquest of Cuba and was shocked by the atrocities that the Spaniards inflicted on the native inhabitants. He eventually entered the Dominican order, was later named Bishop of Chiapas, and spent the last fifty years of his life as an outspoken advocate for the rights of native peoples. See his biography in Wikipedia for a fuller account.
In his book, Cárdenas Bunsen argues that canon law played a decisive role in shaping the world view of de las Casas and the arguments he deployed in his writings, such as the Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies). The book also includes a useful description of canon law studies at the University of Salamanca in the early 16th century.
Cárdenas Bunsen is now Assistant Professor of Spanish at Bucknell University, and was a frequent visitor to the Rare Book Room while researching his doctoral dissertation at Yale.
Rare Book Librarian
Legal fiction reviews
The Law and Politics Book Review, one of my favorite electronic journals, has just put out a special issue on Legal Fiction, with reviews of 22 American, British, and European novels from the 19th to 21st centuries. The goal of the editors was "to find out how others who teach courses in political science, criminal justice, or law use novels in their teaching." The standard law-and-literature canon is well represented -- Dickens' Bleak House, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Kafka's The Trial -- but there were a few surprises as well, including two science fiction titles (Isaac Asimov's I, Robot and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.Highly recommended for librarians and collectors interested in the law-and-literature or law-and-popular-culture fields.
Rare Book Librarian