Friday, November 20, 2009

A Wonderful Letter About Our "American Blackstone"

We just acquired a letter from William Price to his law partner, James Clapp, written in 1812. Price wrote about all sorts of things in this four-page letter, including dry goods, law practice, and women, but most interesting of all, he wrote about James Kent, "The American Blackstone." Bibliophiles love James Kent because he loved books. He had a stellar private library, mainly consisting of law books, many of which he carefully annotated. He kept a detailed shelflist of his books, showing exactly where each book resided in his home. His library occupied several rooms of his house.

Price had this to say about Kent, who was 49 years old at the time: "I this evening again visited the Chief Justice pursuant to invitation and was never more delightfully entertained - Old madeira and choice cigars ... He was perfectly free & easy & appeared desirous only to please us - He took the candle & travelled round his library . . . He is indeed Clapp a great man - The notes he has made in the Books in his library would of themselves you would suppose occupy a whole life ..."

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Most Curious Little Work ...

Because a major goal of our rare books program is to document the way Anglo-American lawyers learned and practiced law, we could not resist purchasing this strange little volume, which was published in London in 1815. I'll let the title speak for itself: Robert Shuttleworth, A Manual for the Assistance of Magistrates, in applying the forms sold by Coles and Galpin, containing blank precedents of such proceedings as are not sold amongst the separate Forms; with short references to the statutes, up to the present time; interspersed with remarks, to assist the Magistrate, Constable, and Parish-Officer.

How odd. This is a practical legal treatise sponsored and published by London stationers Coles & Galpin, as a guide to the use of their printed legal forms. These forms were sold separately; the preface gives information on how and where to purchase them. I have never seen a "proprietary" legal manual such as this one, and thought it would be an excellent and unusual addition to our strong collection of early legal practice materials. If anyone is aware of other examples of this phenomenon, I would appreciate hearing about them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This Just In: Thomas Craig's Jus Feudale

Last year, we received a most intriguing gift from Professor Mike Hoeflich of the University of Kansas Law School: a beautifully bound manuscript book containing notes from Scottish jurist Thomas Craig's landmark work, Jus Feudale. Read more about it here.

To supplement Professor Hoeflich's important gift and facilitate research on our manuscript copy, we recently added a first edition of Jus Feudale to our collection. Published in Edinburgh in 1655 and written in Latin, this treatise was the first work devoted to Scots law. Our copy features the signature of an early owner, "Lauderdale 1714."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rare Giles Jacob Title Added to the Collection

We recently acquired a fine addition to our collection of works by the legal publisher and writer Giles Jacob, many of which were bequeathed to us by our beloved and generous friend the late Kitty Preyer.

As he did with his more popular works, Jacob wrote The Grand Precedent: or, the Conveyancer's Guide and Assistant (London, 1716) to help lawyers and laypeople alike to learn and understand the law. Unlike most of his other works, including the very famous Every Man His Own Lawyer and the New Law Dictionary, The Grand Precedent only appeared in one edition.

Our copy features the autograph of an early owner, Alexander Johnson, on the title page. Numerous handwritten notes, probably also by Johnson, are sprinkled throughout the text. The book is found in full calf leather and features attractive decorative tooling and a blind stamped armorial crest, probably of Irish origin.