Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Student Event in the Rare Book Room: Lunch, Books, and Binding

RSVP quickly to snag one of ten slots on OrgSync!

In light of the success of last year’s student event in the Rare Book Room, on Monday 4/25 at noon, curator Laurel Davis is going to host another lunch, exhibit, and discussion about our beautiful collection of rare books and manuscripts.

This year, we will have a special guest: Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator at the Burns Library, the home of Boston College’s special collections. We will provide lunch from Panera in the law library conference room, and then move into the Rare Book Room to look at some highlights from our collection. After that, we’ll have a hands-on session with Barbara for those who would like to try their hand at binding a pamphlet!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Leap Day and Year!

Apparently, there was an onslaught of Leap Year postcards in the early 20th century, particularly around 1908 and 1912. Most played on the idea that February 29th was a day in which women could take a leap, flip the old-fashioned tables, and propose to a man. The origins of the idea are murky, but perhaps are rooted in a 13th century Scottish law that supposedly penalized men for refusing a woman's proposal during a leap year.

Examples of these cards abound on the web, including a Leap Year postcard database from Monmouth University. Our own collection of legal postcards, gift of Michael H. Hoeflich and subject of a Fall 2014 exhibit, includes a legally-themed example. The woman is apparently on "the right side of the law" in proposing to the lawyer during a Leap Year.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Heavily Annotated First Edition of Burn's Justice of the Peace

Today’s featured acquisition is a first edition of Richard Burn’s The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer. First published in 1755, Burn’s work is the most popular ever written on justices of the peace. This particular copy can provide researchers with great insights into how manuals like this were actually used. Our copy contains some 75 additional blank pages, most of which have been used as an appendix, adding cases and statutes under the headings from the book. There are also extensive marginal notes. Some are additions that the owner found useful to supplement the original text, while others are updates that refer to laws enacted after the time of publication. Some of the owner’s very legible notes can be seen in the photo above.
The extensive notes were presumably written by Richard Hopton of Canon-Frome, Hereford, whose bookplate appears in the front of both volumes. The Hopton family occupied a country house in the county of Herefordshire for centuries. Hopton himself was a lawyer in the area and would have been practicing at the time of publication. Worth mentioning is a schedule of fees for Herefordshire court officers, which is copied into the handwritten appendix in the first volume. 

Richard Burn was born in England in 1709. He attended school at Oxford, where he was later awarded a Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.). Burn went on to become justice of the peace for Westmorland and Cumberland counties. The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer was his first book. What made the work particularly groundbreaking was its unique layout. Tired of the arbitrary organization that had plagued justices’ manuals in the past, Burn laid out a new plan in the preface of the first volume: “The author proposeth in this book to render the laws relating to the subjects it treats of, a little more intelligible than hath hitherto been done” (v). He was evidently successful. Even Blackstone praised Burn’s work, noting that it included “every thing relative to this subject, both in ancient and modern practice, collected with great care and accuracy, and disposed in a most clear and judicious method” (bk 1 c.9 iii [354 (1771)]). Burn went on to edit the ninth through eleventh editions of Blackstone’s Commentaries. The thirtieth and final edition of Justice was published in 1869, eighty-four years after Burn’s death.

Thanks to Joe Luttrell at Meyer Boswell Books for his helpful description.

Norma Landau, “Burn, Richard (1709-1785),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
The Hopton Family and Their Book-Plates,” Journal of the Ex Libris Society, 1904.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Calling interested law students: annual essay competition is underway!

The eighth annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition is underway and open to any graduate student in law, library science, history, or related fields!

 The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, sponsors this annual competition, which is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School. The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives.

 The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting in July in Chicago. The winner and runner-up will have the opportunity to publish their essays in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal Unbound: A Review of Legal History and Rare Books. The entry form, requirements, and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 18, 2016 (EST).

Monday, November 30, 2015

Early Maine Attorney's Court Docket Book

Today's item is a docket book once owned by Charles Greene, a successful lawyer in Maine. Interestingly, the entries begin in 1816, when Maine was still a district of Massachusetts. By the time of the last entry, in 1833, Maine had been a state for more than a decade. This book covers cases handled in the common law courts of York and Somerset Counties.

Charles Greene was educated at Dartmouth, from which he graduated in 1811. Upon graduating, he went to study law under his father, Judge Benjamin Greene, along with Dudley Hubbard, South Berwick's "first regularly educated lawyer." In 1814, just three years after graduating college, Charles Greene opened his own practice in South Berwick, York County. He would later move to Norridgewock before finally settling in Athens, where he would stay until his death in 1852. Greene continued to practice law and later became judge of the county probate court.

The book is completely filled in, with no blank pages and none missing. Overall, the volume contains 1569 cases. Most of the actions contained within are for debt, but several others of interest include actions of replevin, trespass, defamation, and dower, among others. The page shown above is part of Greene's comprehensive 12-page index. The index is split into two sections to separate Greene's time practicing in South Berwick from his practice in Athens.

Many thanks to Robert H. Rubin for the wonderful description on which this post is based.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Acquisition: 19th Century Justice of the Peace Ledger

Wilkes Wood entry on theft
This acquisition is a manuscript ledger of cases heard by Wilkes Wood, a justice of the peace for Middleborough in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Wood graduated from Brown University in 1793 and was admitted to the bar of Plymouth in 1796 after studying law there under Judge Thomas. He served as judge of probate and president of the Bar Association of Plymouth County. A member of the Whig Party, Wood served as a state senator for Massachusetts for two years and was a member of the electoral college that cast its vote for William Harrison.

Unlike today, justices of the peace in Massachusetts at the time had a good deal of power, with jurisdiction over criminal cases and some civil cases. Justices worked out of their own homes and kept their own records and ledgers. Dissatisfied parties could appeal the justices’ rulings to the local county courts, with the records for the appeal coming from the ledger or minute books of the justice of the peace who heard the original case. Catherine S. Menand, A Research Guide to the Massachusetts Courts and Their Records 60 (1987).

Wood’s ledger covers actions from 1801-1840, with the bulk of the entries from 1801-1816. Although most of them are related to defaults on debts, there are approximately one hundred actions brought for other matters including theft, assault and battery, and vagrancy. Additionally, there are several records of marriages performed by Wood. One of the more interesting actions is displayed above. In it, plaintiff Joseph Bisbe, a blacksmith, has brought an action against the defendant for theft. After examining the “proofs” offered, Justice of the Peace Wood declares the defendant to be guilty and orders him to pay a fine of three dollars as well as the costs of prosecution, listed on the bottom left of the page.

previous post showcased a similar record book belonging to a justice of the peace in Springfield.

Many thanks to Robert H. Rubin for the description on which this post is based.

Thomas Weston, History of the Town of Middleboro Massachusetts (1906)
Catherine S. Menand, A Research Guide to the Massachusetts Courts and Their Records (1987)

This posted was drafted by BC Law Library intern, Liz Walk, Boston College Class of 2016. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Acquisition: A Legal Commonplace Book

This commonplace book, published in London in 1680, is attributed to Samuel Brewster. It is succinctly titled A Brief Method of the Law. Being an Exact Alphabetical Disposition of All the Heads Necessary for a Perfect Common-Place. Books of this type were used as a tool for the study and retrieval of law. The owner was meant to follow the structure of the book and fill it in, or “common-place” it, with notes and precedents. The book is organized into an alphabetical outline of legal topics, from “Abatement del breve” to “Wreck”. The blank interleaves in our copy were filled in extensively by an English law student or lawyer; the language of the notes varies between English, Latin, and Law-French.

In his History of English Law, Holdsworth discusses the utility of commonplace books in the study of law at this time, making specific reference to Brewster's work. According to Holdsworth, the typical law student “was thrown upon his own resources; and that consequently the method of getting and assimilating a knowledge of law, which was universally recommended and generally followed, was the making of a commonplace book under alphabetical heads.”

In addition to his considerable notes in the text, the owner also copied a lengthy indenture into the first several pages of the book, indicating an intent to use this as a precedent book as well.

Thank you to Michael von der Linn at Lawbook Exchange for the description on which this post is based.

Holdsworth, William. A History of English Law. Vol. 6: 601.

This post was drafted by BC Law Library intern, Liz Walk.