Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Spectacular Copy of Cowell's Interpreter

Professor Daniel R. Coquillette recently donated to the library a very special copy of John Cowell's famously controversial law dictionary, The Interpreter. This copy is from the 1701 edition. It is a beautiful large folio volume which contains extensive annotations from an early owner, Samuel Burton, who inscribed the book in 1704. On the page shown here, Burton compiled a list of "Words omitted in this Law Dictionary." He also added chronological lists of England's Kings and Queens elsewhere in the volume. It is always wonderful to see how owners used their books and made them their own, and this is a stellar example.

This copy of The Interpreter joins several other editions already in our collection, including the first edition. Published in 1607, the first edition ignited a scandal and was banned by King James in 1610. Very briefly, Cowell got into trouble for several of his definitions, especially "King," "Parliament," "Prerogative," and "Subsidy." Cowell seemed to favor an absolute monarch who was above the common law. This infuriated Chief Justice Edward Coke and Parliament. Though he secretly agreed with Cowell's definitions, James tried to placate Coke and Parliament by suppressing the book. Though banned for a time, not all copies of the first edition were destroyed, and The Interpreter went on to be published in ten editions during the 17th and 18th centuries.

For much more on the controversy surrounding The Interpreter, see Frederick Hicks, Men and Books Famous in the Law (1921).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Digitization of the Brooker Collection is Moving Right Along . . .

Boston College's project to digitize the entire Robert E. Brooker III Collection of American Legal and Land Use Documents continues apace, thanks to the collective efforts of law and university library staff. On January 25, I reported that we were about one-sixth of the way through the entire project.

Recently we hit a new milestone. On May 13, Digital Collections Librarian Betsy McKelvey provided this update: "Loading is complete through manuscript no. 1100 – we’ve passed the one thousand mark! As manuscripts are not numbered consecutively, this means that there are just shy of 1,000 Brooker manuscripts in the system now. Dorothea Rees (Law Library) continues to work on metadata while Naomi Rubin (O'Neill Library) continues scanning. The project should reach the half way point by the end of the summer."

But you don't have to wait to begin using the collection. Visit BC's Digital Collections site and start digging in now!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eye Candy for Library Lovers . . . and a blast from the past

If you love libraries - using them, being in them, or even just looking at them, surely you will enjoy the "Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries." I was happy to see many of my current favorites there: the Morgan, the Grolier Club, the Boston Athenaeum, and the BPL. I would also add several of my old stomping grounds from my college days in California: the Huntington Library, the Denison Library at Scripps College, and the (sadly) now defunct Francis Bacon Library at the Claremont Colleges, where I spent many an afternoon attempting to write my thesis but getting distracted by all the beautiful rare books! Guess it was fated that I would end up working at a place that has several beautiful libraries of its own.

Do you have a favorite beautiful library that did not make the list?

Hat tip to the Curious Expeditions blog, and to my special collections pal Carrie Marsh at the Claremont College Libraries for bringing this link to light. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Very Important Private Law Library

We are delighted to have acquired two important private law library inventories in as many weeks. I unveiled last week's acquisition here. This week's addition is even more exciting. It is a list of the law and general books belonging to Joseph Growdon, Jr. (1652-1738) of Philadelphia. Growdon was a wealthy and politically powerful Quaker who served eight terms as Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly and also served as Pennsylvania's Chief Justice.

The inventory, dated 1738, is written in a very legible hand. It consists of two large folio sheets, with more than 250 law and general titles listed, including law reporters, treatises, and works on Continental and international law. The books are listed in neat columns on both sides of each sheet; each title has an evaluation in pounds sterling.

Until very recently, this manuscript was assumed to be lost. In THE BOOK CULTURE OF A COLONIAL AMERICAN CITY, Edwin Wolf wrote that Philadelphia lawyer Ralph Assheton's private law library "must have been the best there was in Philadelphia in the first half of the eighteenth century." Wolf mentioned Assheton's brother William, and then wrote "Equally elusive are the books of Joseph Growdon, jun. who was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1730. A notice after his death in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 27 July 1738 reads: 'To be SOLD, The Library of Joseph Growdon, Esq.'" Wolf continued, "A catalogue of these and his other books could be seen in the care of his executrix; no copy of it exists. . . Growdon's library must have been extensive."

Nearly three centuries after it was written, Growdon's library catalogue has resurfaced and now resides in our Rare Book Room, awaiting further study and research. We are so pleased it is here!