Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy holidays to all!


Nothing like a few law-related puns to bring cheer to a holiday party! Our postcard collection, generously donated by Professor Michael Hoeflich, includes quite a few holiday-themed cards. Check out the webpage for our law in postcards exhibit to see some pictures and the exhibit catalog, which has a holiday section.

May your worries be as brief as a legal document this holiday season! Until next year...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New acquisition: colonial American imprint of Henry Care's English Liberties

Spine of Henry Care's English LibertiesTitle page of Henry Care's English Liberties

Henry Care's English Liberties, or the Free-born Subject's Inheritance was originally published in England around 1680 (the title page had no year). The book is a layman's guide to English law and government, with a focus on the Magna Cagna, the Charter of the Forest, other important early English statutes, and subjects such as juries, justices of the peace, murder and manslaughter.

A note after the Contents section indicates that this edition, with additions by William Nelson, is specially adapted for American audiences. It omits content that wasn't deemed useful for the colonies, but "to compensate amply for those Omissions, and make the Work as truly valuable", there are additions for colonial readers in the way of forms for justices of the peace and "Extracts from several late celebrated Writers on the British Constitution, which serve to illustrate and enforce the very important Doctrines advanced by the ingenious Author" (viii).

This last bit is interesting, as this volume was published in Providence, Rhode Island in 1774, just months after the passage of the Intolerable Acts. The discussion of Magna Carta and fundamental rights would have been quite interesting reading for colonial patriots. Indeed, Thomas Jefferson had two copies of this work, which was a source of inspiration for William Penn's Excellent Priviledge of Liberty and Property (1687) and a source for George Mason when drafting Virginia's Declaration of Rights (1776).

Many thanks to the folks at Lawbook Exchange for the detailed description, upon which the post is based.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Colonial Massachusetts deed signed by husband and wife



This 1774 deed confirms the sale of fifty acres of land around Worcester (in the then Massachusetts Bay Colony) from Artemas How to Bezeleel Hale to  “Have, Hold, Use, Occupy Possess and Enjoy.” The deed contains a description of the land that is almost as confounding and entertaining as it is long; the tract of land goes from “a heap of stones a corner of Holman Priests land…one hundred and forty three rods to a white Oak then southeast thirty seven rods by land of Eleazer[?] Johnson to a red oak and then southeasterly…” and so on for several more lines.

The document was witnessed and signed on the verso by the Justice of the Peace, John Whitcomb, who is perhaps the most interesting character in this story. Whitcomb became a lieutenant in his early thirties but was considered too old to fight by the time the Revolutionary War rolled around, soon after the execution of this deed. He ended up entering into battle anyway, since his militia refused to fight without him. He eventually rose to the rank of Brigadier-General but refused a later request from Washington to take charge of all the troops from Massachusetts. He then spent the rest of his life serving as Justice of the Peace and mining limestone. Artemas How, as well, served in the Revolutionary War and fought in the Battle of Lexington and Concord. However, it seems he never found his footing, let alone fortune, in the limestone industry.

The other signatory of interest is Artemas How’s wife, Abigail, who signed the deed right below her husband (only Artemas is listed in the covenant within the actual text). We have several other deeds in our Brooker Collection signed by husband and wife, so this was not unheard of. However, it is fascinating, as the property of married women came under the control of their husbands under the English doctrine of coverture. Did Abigail’s signature have any legal significance, or is it perhaps an indication of Artemas How’s respect for his wife?

 ~This post was written by Lexy Bader, our reference assistant in the BC Law Library. Many thanks to Lexy and the kind folks at Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscript for their helpful description.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Exhibit: The Law in Postcards

I'm happy to announce that there's a new exhibit up in the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room for the fall semester. It features a collection of law-related postcards and trade cards that were given to us by Michael H. Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law. As many of you know, Professor Hoeflich has previously given us two gifts of antiquarian and modern Roman law books.

The cards in the exhibit were the basis of Professor Hoeflich's book, The Law in Postcards and Legal Ephemera 1890-1962 (The Lawbook Exchange, 2012). It's a fun and colorful exhibit, and we'd love for you to come to take a look. For a sneak preview, check out the exhibit webpage!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New acquisition: a groundbreaking treatise on international law


This is a first edition of Emer de Vattel's groundbreaking work on international law, Le Droit de Gens (London, 1758). It was soon published in English as The Law of Nations in 1759-60, a publication that we also have in our collection. 

This particular copy grabbed my attention because it is in the original publisher's binding, which presumably was meant to be temporary. The pages are untrimmed, and you can see from the picture on the right that the label was placed upside down on the wrong end of the spine on volume 1. It looks exactly as it did when it was produced in 1758, with the exception of some wear around the edges of the boards. The internal pages are fresh, with lovely red and black title pages in both volumes. 

Vattel (1714-1767) was a disciple of the German philosopher Christian Wolff and echoed Wolff's belief in the importance of natural law in conjunction with positive law. Vattel believed that abiding by treaties was a sacred duty. His work was immensely influential in the colonies and early United States and was read by founders such as Franklin and Jefferson. An early American edition was published in Northhampton, Massachusetts in 1805.  Interestingly, this work is still cited today. A quick Westlaw case search for Vattel and the title brought up close to 250 results, with several from 2014! 

Many thanks to Joe Luttrell at Meyer Boswell for his insights on the binding. For more on Vattel and his influence, particularly in the colonies and early U.S., take a look at Jesse S. Reeves, "The Influence of the Law of Nature upon International Law in the United States," The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jul., 1909), pp. 547-561

Monday, July 28, 2014

Best wishes to those sitting for the bar!

While browsing through our fabulous legal postcard and ephemera collection from Michael Hoeflich, I ran across several that mention being called to the bar. They inevitably involve a fun drinking pun. Folks just can't help it!

So here's to the recent Boston College Law School grads and the many others across the country who will be sitting for the bar later this week! May your recall of doctrine be mighty and your pens swift. And definitely have fun at a real bar afterwards.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New database for Appeals to the Privy Council

A wonderful new resource for legal historians has recently been released online from two familiar faces at Boston College Law School: Sharon Hamby O'Connor, Professor Emerita, and Mary Sarah Bilder, Professor and Lee Distinguished Scholar. The database is called "Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue" and currently offers access to all known cases appealed from the thirteen colonies that would become the U.S. to the Privy Council. That court heard appeals from the British colonial courts and ruled on all sorts of matters that would come to shape the law in these colonies, including U.S. constitutional law.

For these known appeals, the database provides links to digitized images of the original documents, where available. Fifty-four of the appeals include "printed cases" or briefs that lay out the reasons for the appeal. Contents are searchable via an internal search engine or via lists arranged in a variety of different ways (by colony, year, case name, etc.--be sure to look at the "Useful Lists" link on the bottom right of the homepage). 

Law students and scholars new to this type of research should review the compilers' memorandum, "Opportunities for Further Research, Discovery, and Investigation on Appeals to the Privy Council." Also, keep an eye out--the catalogue will expand to include appeals from Canadian and Caribbean colonies. In the meantime, have fun browsing through this rich source of U.S. legal history!