A visit from Yale's Directed Studies students
I was pleased to welcome about 30 freshmen from Yale's Directed Studies program to the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room on November 4. They were accompanied by three of the Directed Studies faculty: Edwin Duval (French), Paul Freedman (History), and Justin Zaremby (Yale College and Law '10).
Directed Studies provides an interdisciplinary study of Western civilization to 125 selected Yale freshmen via three year-long courses -- literature, philosophy, and historical & political thought -- that focus on the central texts of Western civilization.
We viewed several books and manuscripts from among the foundational texts of European and English law, and how these texts shaped and were shaped by legal education. From Europe there was a 13th-century compilation of the Institutes, Code, and Novels of Justinian, and a 14th-century manuscript of the Clementines from the Corpus Juris Canonici, which show the development of the gloss as an outgrowth of the law lectures at the university in Bologna. The Institutes themselves had been promulgated by the Roman emperor Justinian in the 6th century as a textbook for learning Roman law. Likewise for canon law, the Decretum of Gratian was not merely a compilation of papal legislation, but a tool for teaching canon law at Bologna. Early printed editions of Justinian's Institutes (1516) and the Liber Sextus (1514) show how the structure of text-and-gloss shaped the layout of early printed law books. Legal humanists later stripped away the medieval gloss, but an 18th-century scholar replaced the gloss with his own study notes in an interleaved copy of the Institutes.
University-trained jurists in Europe had to plow through every line of Justinian's texts or the Corpus Juris Canonici to earn their doctorates in law. In England, by contrast, lawyers did not study English common law in universities but at the Inns of Court, and they did not study foundation texts as the Europeans did. On view for the students was one of our two 13th-century manuscripts of Bracton, the text that tried to do for English law what Justinian's Institutes did for Roman law, but failed. Education in the common law was practice-based; students attended hearings in the royal courts and studied cases from the Year Books, the anonymous medieval case reports that focused on procedure rather than outcomes. The first text written for English law students was Littleton's Tenures, a little treatise on land law that ws reprinted over seventy times across four centuries. Sir Edward Coke's commentary on Littleton once again adapted the device of the gloss, with Coke's dense and learned notes almost swallowing up Littleton's original text. The copy of Coke on Littleton (1633) that the students viewed has additional layers of extensive manuscript notes, attributed to the English author Samuel Butler (1612-1680), author of a best-selling satire on the Puritans, Hudibras, and Butler's patron William de Longueville (1639-1721).
The book that revolutionized common-law legal education, especially for do-it-yourself'ers in the early United States, was Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, the first book to give a comprehensive overview of English law in prose that an educated layman could digest. On view for the students was the 1790 edition of the Commentaries printed in Worcester, Mass., by the pioneering American printer Isaiah Thomas, as well as a student notebook (New England?, 1810?), where the student's geography notes are followed by "Questions and Answers upon Law: Blackstone's Commentaries."
My thanks to Justin Zaremby for organizing this visit. The students enjoyed the chance to see the books up close and actually handle them. Let's do it again!
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