Friday, October 16, 2009

The Publisher's Art

Several years ago, our dear friend the late Kitty Preyer gave us a copy of Henry Dagge's Considerations on Criminal Law. Published in London in 1772, this copy is particularly interesting because it reveals some intermediary stages in the printing and selling of law books. The printer bound the book in humble cardboard covers colored a striking vivid blue. In most cases a client would buy the book in printer's boards like this and have it bound to his or her particular taste and budget, mostly likely in full calf-leather covers. That did not happen here.

Most books have their pages cut to a uniform size and shape, which gives them a smooth block-like appearance. This book did not get that far. Its pages are uncut, showing rough, uneven edges when viewed closed. Some of the pages are unopened, which means the edges of a large sheet of paper that had been folded into two or more pages were not cut during the manufacturing process, rendering the pages nearly impossible to read. Cutting and opening would usually happen during the binding process.

Perhaps this humble copy never left the shelves of the printer until long after it was printed, or its early owner(s) lacked the means or the interest to bind, cut, and open its pages. Either way, it survives as an interesting example of a rarely seen stage in the life of a book.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Have Had Visitors ...

One of the most rewarding things about working in special collections is the opportunity to share our treasures with others. In the past few weeks, many of our books and documents have seen the light of day. Professor Dan Coquillette brought his English Legal History class in twice: once to view Roman law books, and again to view early English legal treatises. Helen Lacouture and I brought 65 English and American books to Professor Mary Bilder's American Legal History class, so each student could touch and examine a piece of the history they are learning. Joan Shear's Environmental Law Research class came in to see some early English works on the environment and land use.

Today I get to teach Denise Sharif's Advanced Legal Research class about the early history of Anglo-American case reporting, using books from our collection as examples. It is always a pleasure to give students a chance to see rare books up close - often for the first time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Arrivals: Signed First Editions of Political Works

We just received a great gift of four signed first editions of modern political works: Jimmy Carter's Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Ted Kennedy's America Back on Track, and Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope. Many thanks to our library colleague and intrepid bibliophile Karen Breda for this wonderful gift. She is almost singlehandedly responsible for our small but growing collection of modern firsts!