Friday, October 22, 2010

Moving In and Moving On

Today the BC Law Library bids a fond farewell to our colleague Dorothea Rees, who is taking a new position at BC's O'Neill Library on the main campus. Readers of this blog know Dorothea has provided expert assistance in the digitization of the Brooker Collection of Legal and Land Use Documents, undertaken jointly by our two libraries.

When we received the gift from Mr. Brooker, we were very fortunate that a finding aid accompanied the documents. This finding aid is a table that contains fields for each document, including document number, date, personal names, place names, type of document, and a brief description. Dorothea has been carefully comparing the data in the finding aid against the documents themselves, making additions, deletions, and corrections as needed. Her stellar and careful work ensures that every document in the digital collection is consistently described and hence searchable (and findable!) by researchers. (By the way, we hope researchers will contribute their own tags to our images, but that is a topic for another day.)

Though I will miss Dorothea and her invaluable assistance, I am delighted to welcome Kelli Farrington to the Brooker Team. Kelli will pick up where Dorothea left off, and she is already hard at work on the next batch of metadata. So thank you, Dorothea, and welcome, Kelli!

Photo: Kelli Farrington (L), Dorothea Rees (R)

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Lies Beneath

Sometimes all the magnificence of a rare book is on full display - perhaps it features a jeweled binding, illuminated paintings, ornamented clasps, or fine printing. Other times its beauty is hidden away, possibly in a fore-edge painting. Or perhaps its charms are literally under wraps, such as the scrap paper used to line the inside covers of the book and bind them to the pages. For these endpapers (also called pastedowns), early printers used whatever materials were lying about: scrap paper, excess pages from large print runs . . . and even illuminated vellum manuscript pages, as in our example here.

Our copy of a Corpus Juris Civilis was published in Paris in 1559. It was bound in three volumes, all of which feature a fine calf leather binding and the gold tooled initials "RB" in honor of an early owner, Dr. Robert Bysshop. Open the covers of all three volumes, and you will be surprised by beautiful illuminated manuscript pages featuring Latin text and early musical notation.

These volumes, donated to us by Daniel R. Coquillette, are some of my favorites in our collection. If anyone knows how to read the notation and sing the music, I would love to hear it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Spy a Lawyer . . .

We just acquired a terrific piece of art: an illustration of a lawyer, Serjeant John Humffreys Parry, created in 1873. The artist was Leslie Ward, a prolific English illustrator and caricaturist better known by his pen name, "Spy." Between 1873 and 1909, Spy drew many images of lawyers and judges for Vanity Fair magazine. His drawings - some flattering, others not so much - were accompanied by acerbic biographies that brought members of the legal profession down to size and proved immensely popular with the public.

Of our subject Serjeant John Humffreys Parry (1816-1880), Spy wrote that "he drapes himself in his gown with the movement of a Senator of melodrama . . . with these antecedents and talents it was natural that he should soon present himself as a Candidate for Parliament. . . . [H]e has great abilities, and by them has raised himself in his Profession to be quite one of its successful men, so that his is a name which gains much favour with Solicitors and gives much confidence to clients. . . . [H]e earns an income large enough to make any man a Conservative."

For more on Spy and his illustrations, see Morris L. Cohen, The Bench and Bar: Great Legal Caricatures from Vanity Fair by Spy.