Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bankruptcy Research in the Rare Book Room

This week I was delighted to welcome Mary Ann Neary and her class of Bankruptcy Research students into the Rare Book Room. We gathered around the table and looked at some early English and American bankruptcy treatises and legal self-help manuals from our collection.

We also looked at some fascinating and heartbreaking documents from the Brooker Collection that showed how early American communities dealt with the poor in their midst. We read correspondence from the Boston Overseers of the Poor, who sought compensation from nearby towns for boarding their residents in the Boston alms-house. We read a very early (1763) letter from a debtor who begged his creditor not to sue him. And we looked at one of my favorite items in the collection: a contract binding four-year-old Benjamin Evans, a "pauper apprentice," into servitude until the age of 21. These documents and their transcriptions can be viewed here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blogpost on Libraries and Librarians

My colleague Steve Dalton alerted the Boston College library staff to a very moving post entitled "Twelve Theses on Libraries and Librarians" from the Faith and Theology blog.

Though I am getting pretty tired of seeing librarians described as "bespectacled," "mild-mannered," and "demure,"* overall I thought Ben Myers, the author of the post, wrote very eloquently about the way librarians simultaneously look to the future and seek to preserve the past. And in my opinion, nowhere is that dual mission more evident than in special collections.

I hope you enjoy the post.

* Well, I guess the "bespectacled" part is OK. But mine are purple!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fun with Insurance Law?

Why, yes! Legal Information Librarian Karen Breda recently brought her Insurance Law Research class into the Rare Book Room to view our rare and historical insurance law materials. In addition to early editions of the grand old treatises by Sheppard, Marshall, and Phillips, we looked at several insurance-related items from the Brooker Collection of Early American Legal and Land Use Documents.

The one shown here is Document # 1339: Marine Insurance Policy No. 255 issued by the Norwich Marine Insurance Company on January 26, 1803. This policy insured the sloop Ann for $1,000 and its cargo for an additional $1,700 on a trip from New London, Connecticut to Puerto Rico and back. The ship’s master paid a premium of ½ of 1%, or $135 to be insured against “the Danger of the Seas, of Fire, Enemies (unless a War), Pirates, assailing Thieves, Restraints and Detainments of all Kings, Princes of People, Baratry of the Master and of the Mariners, and all other Losses and Misfortunes that have or shall come to the Damage of said Sloop & Cargo.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Michael von der Linn at BC Law's Legal History Roundtable

Last week, BC Law enjoyed a visit from Michael von der Linn, Manager of the Antiquarian Book Department at the Lawbook Exchange. Among other reasons, Michael was here to deliver a paper at BC Law's Legal History Roundtable, which fittingly takes place in our Rare Book Room. Michael's talk was entitled "Harvard Law School's Promotional Literature, 1829-1848: A Reflection of the Ideals and Realities of the Story-Ashmun-Greenleaf Era." Michael dissected advertisements and delved into other primary sources to deliver a fresh look at Harvard Law School's early days. Notably, he argued that Asahel Stearns, an early HLS faculty member, deserved better treatment at the time, and a better reputation today. It was a fascinating talk, and I look forward to Michael's expanded treatment of the topic, which he intends to publish.
On a lighter note, Michael also gave me tips on how to occupy myself during a future visit to New Orleans (hint: most of them involve alcohol). I look forward to trying those out as well.