Friday, December 16, 2011

New Acquisition--1826 Manuscript Law Library Inventory

This is probably my favorite acquisition for 2011, and I'm thrilled to have it as the subject of the last blog post for the year!

This is an 1826 inventory that lists the contents of the law library of one J. G. Deane, most likely the Portland, Maine attorney Joseph G. Deane. It is one leaf of lovely paper folded to form a four page list; it was folded for storage in a way that resembles an envelope (see photo, above left). Deane had a library of 97 titles, many of which are in our collection--Story on Pleadings, Greenleaf's Cases, Vattel's Law of Nations, etc. Unsurprisingly, there are many American and English case reporters and titles relating to Maine and maritime law. The paper is in wonderful condition, and the handwriting is beautiful and very legible. The inventory was likely prepared for an insurance appraisal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Study in the Rare Book Room!

If you're looking for a quiet place to spread out and study for exams, come visit the Rare Book Room. The Room is open on weekdays from 9-5, and it's a beautiful and quiet study space. No food and drinks are allowed, so there won't be any distractions from folks rattling food containers and slurping down drinks! There's plenty of space to spread out books and notes, and outlets are readily available for laptops.

-The photograph is by Richard Lawrence Cohen and is being used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anglo-American Legal History Class Visits the Rare Book Room

This past Tuesday, we were thrilled to host Professor Dan Coquillette's Anglo-American Legal History Class for an exhibit of our 16th and 17th century legal practice materials. It's always a pleasure to have this interested and engaged group come to see our collection, and it's a tremendous treat to get to listen to Professor Coquillette's discussion of the materials. The focus of the exhibit was early court reports and abridgments, including a 1534 Year Book from the reign of Edward III, Coke's reports and Dyer's reports, along with abridgments of both. We also displayed early compilations of writs, Littleton's Tenures, Coke on Littleton, books of entries, and several other items. Pictures of many featured items will be posted on our Facebook page, along with this audio clip of Professor Coquillette's introduction to the materials:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rare Book Room closes at 4pm today

We are happy to host the Boston College Law School Legal History Roundtable today in the Rare Book Room. The Roundtable offers an opportunity for Boston College faculty and faculty from other area institutions, students, and members of the Boston College community to meet and discuss a pre-circulated paper in legal history (RSVP to Erin Murphy at Today's guest is Aniceto Masferrer, Professor of Legal History, University of Valencia and President, the Society for Comparative Legal History. Professor Masferrer's paper is entitled "The Principle of Legality and Codification in the 19th-century Western Criminal Law Reform."

The Roundtable will begin at 4:30pm, but the room will close at 4pm for preparations.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Antiquarian Book Fair comes to town!

If any lovers of rare books, manuscripts or literary ephemera are looking for weekend plans, consider going to the Antiquarian Book Fair at Hynes Convention Center. From November 11-13th, dealers from the U.S. and Europe will be in Boston for one of the oldest and most respected antiquarian book shows in the country. Tickets will be available at the door for $8 and are also available in advance from the Fair's website, along with a list of fair activities and related events around the city.

Boston College's own Burns Library will have a booth at the fair, so be sure to visit!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rare Book Room closed morning of Nov. 1st for a classroom visit

We are happy to be hosting Professor Dan Coquillette's Anglo-American Legal History class again this week to view some of our rare books. This week's mini-exhibit: sixteenth and seventeenth century legal professional literature. This exhibit, on display specifically for the class, will include Yearbooks of Edward III, Coke's Reports, Dyer's Reports, abridgments by Brooke and FitzHerbert, multiple examples of Registers of Writs, and some special editions of 16th and 17th legal treatises, including Glanville's Tractatus.

Be on the lookout for a blog post about the visit and some photos of the offerings on Facebook!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rare Book Room closed October 17-18th

The Rare Book Room is being used as a site for on-campus interviewing on Monday, October 17th, and Tuesday, October 18th. We apologize in advance for any disruption to your study or research plans and hope that you can visit another day.

Best of luck to all of the students who will be interviewing!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rare Book Room will be closed October 6

The Rare Book Room will be closed on Thursday, October 6, as we prepare to host an event in the room tonight.

The room will reopen on October 7 for visitors to the exhibit or those seeking a quiet study space. We look forward to your visit!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fun in the Stacks--The Domesday Book


Helen Lacouture and I were happy to host Dan Coquillette's Anglo-American Legal History class a couple of weeks ago when they came to visit the Rare Book Room. We put out an exhibit of selected Norman law materials, including a couple of Magna Cartas, a Bracton, a Glanville, and this facsimile of the Domesday Book. Until this visit, I'd never had occasion to deal with it closely, other than to strain my back when lifting it off the shelf. However, it is such a fascinating piece of work that I thought a blog post was in order.

The Domesday Book was a 1086 survey of Britain ordered by William I of England, more often referred to as William the Conqueror. William wanted a clear record of the lands that were in his realm, who owned what, and what taxes were owed to him by the holders of the lands and the personalty thereon. He sent his men out across the country, and every acre and every pig and cow on top of every acre was counted.

The photo above (left) is a page from a 1986 facsimile of the original Domesday (held at the British National Archives in London) --specifically a page from the section devoted to Devonshire. The 1986 facsimile, which was released in honor of Domesday's 900th anniversary, added translation volumes. The appropriate page from the translation volume is also included above (right). More photos will be posted on Facebook!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Exhibit--Golden Age of Legal Publishing in Massachusetts

This new exhibit is up for viewing in the Rare Book Room, and a digital edition is also available for those unable to visit the physical exhibit or for anyone interested in more information on the featured works.

Massachusetts was an extremely important legal publishing center in the 19th century, when American law book publishing was taking off. Prior to and right after the American Revolution, virtually the only law books being published in the colonies were statutory compilations and reprints of English and continental legal texts. However, by the beginning of the 1800s, a “home-grown” canon of American legal literature began to emerge.

“The Golden Age of Legal Publishing in Massachusetts” traces this progression in Massachusetts legal publishing, beginning with a 1648 statutory compilation and ending with Christopher Columbus Langdell’s famous A Selection of Cases on the Law of Contracts, which revolutionized teaching at American law schools. Beautiful first editions of Joseph Story's works and Simon Greenleaf's Treatise on the Law of Evidence are among the featured items.

Educational Technology Specialist Chester Kozikowski helped integrate QR codes into the exhibit. This addition blends old and new and allows those touring the exhibit with a smart phone to easily access additional content about the exhibit—audio clips, links to related websites, and a link to the digital edition of the exhibit, which is also available from the exhibit’s webpage.

The exhibit will be open for viewing into Spring 2012.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rare Book Room will be closed September 5th-11th

The Rare Book Room will be closed from September 5th through September 11th for exhibit work. It will reopen on Monday, September 12th with our new exhibit on Massachusetts legal publishing in the 18th and 19th century. Our lovely collection of Joseph Story's works will be one of the features of the exhibit. Please come see the new exhibit and use the room for studying or research when we reopen!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

For all you book lovers out there...

Check out Bibliophemera, one of my favorite blogs. Blogger Chuck Whiting posts regularly on book-related ephemera--trading cards, old book invoices, bookseller billheads, and variety of other fun things. One of my favorite posts deals with the famous Boston publisher Little, Brown & Co., founded in 1837 and still in existence today. Little, Brown was a prolific early American law book publisher, with Joseph Story and Simon Greenleaf on its author list. Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Treasures in the Stacks

While browsing the shelves in the Rare Book Room, I came across this 1887 edition of The Comic Blackstone, originally published in London in 1846 and written by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett. This edition was revised and expanded by Gilbert's son, Arthur William à Beckett, who, like his father, was a barrister at Gray’s Inn. The Comic Blackstone is a parody of William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. Like that famous work, this one consists of an introduction and Parts I–IV (The Rights of Persons, The Rights of Things, Of Private Wrongs, and Of Public Wrongs).

The ten full-page colored illustrations in this edition are by Harry Furniss, and include the illustration to the right, entitled "The Study of the Law." A woman appears to be taking notes on the history of the law, as a parade of characters marches backward in time--from Queen Victoria and the Comic Blackstone in the upper left-hand corner to Julius Caesar and Roman law in the bottom left-hand corner. The book is bound in a highly decorative cloth that represents a trend in nineteenth century England and America; it was previously featured in a Spring 2010 exhibit called "Books and Their Covers: Decorative Bindings, Beautiful Books," curated by Karen Beck.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Acquisition--The Law of Married Women in Massachusetts

This volume was published in Boston in 1878 and written by two members of the Suffolk County Bar Association, Charles Almy and Horace Fuller. In this book, Almy and Fuller dissect the contemporary state of the law as it pertains to married women in the areas of contractual powers, real estate, criminal liability, divorce, child custody, wills and intestacy and many others. The photo to the left captures the first page of the chapter on criminal liability, in which the authors discuss the legal presumption that a married woman's criminal act is not of her own will but rather is a result of her husband's coercion.

The introduction challenges Blackstone's statement that "[e]ven the disabilities which the wife lies under are for the most part intended for her protection and benefit; so great a favorite is the female sex of the law of England." In the introduction, the authors trace the development of Massachusetts law with regard to the rights of women, from a 1787 statute that allowed for conveyances of real estate and contracts of married women when their husbands had absented themselves from the state, to an attempt by the General Court in 1877 and 1878 to pass a bill legalizing contracts between husbands and wives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Welcome to the collection! Kent's Commentaries, 8th ed.

One of our most recent acquisitions is this lovely four-volume set of the eighth edition of James Kent's Commentaries on American Law (New York: published by William Kent, 1854). Other editions of this seminal treatise on American law are already housed in the Rare Book Room, and we are excited to add this set to the collection. The significance of this particular edition lies in the fact that it was the last one undertaken by James Kent's son, William Kent. Following his father's death in 1847, William took on the duty of updating the treatise and published the sixth, seventh, and eighth editions before his own death in 1861.

It should be noted that William Kent was an important jurist in his own right. He was a Judge of Circuit Court of New York City from 1841-1845; a professor at Harvard Law School; and one of the founders of NYU Law School. Notably, it was William who encouraged his father to compile, edit, synthesize and allow his lecture notes from Columbia Law School to be printed--a suggestion that the elder Kent ultimately heeded, leading to the publication of the first volume of the first edition of Kent's Commentaries in 1826.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Acquisition--Little Brown Catalog

The most recent addition to the Rare Book Room is A Catalogue of Law and Miscellaneous Books published by Boston's own Little, Brown and Company in July 1862. It is a small catalog, in very nice condition, with original sewn wraps. The first 34 pages list law books for sale, while the remainder of the catalog is devoted to imported English and French books, including law journals. Most of the entries are accompanied by descriptions and often excerpts from reviews. For example, the entry for Kent's Commentaries (a staple of our collection) includes the $16 price tag for the four volume set and a quotation from a reviewer stating that "[i]t is with the immortal Commentaries on the laws of England, that those on American law are now classed, and the names of Blackstone and Kent are fated never to be disjoined."

Little, Brown and Company is one of the oldest publishing houses in the country; it was established in Boston in 1837 by Charles Little and James Brown, and it still exists today as an imprint of Hachette Book Group.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Come study in the Rare Book Room!

The Rare Book Room provides a beautiful and quiet place to study. Come visit and study for the bar exam, or work on other projects that require an especially studious atmosphere! Please remember that no food or beverages are allowed in the room, so you will not encounter the annoying sounds of potato chip bags crinkling or straws shrieking on plastic cups.

Summer hours:
Monday-Thursday from 9am-5pm
Friday from 9am-1pm

Please note that the Rare Book Room will be closed on Monday, June 6 and Tuesday, June 7 for maintenance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Acquisition--Gallison's Reports

We recently acquired a first edition of the Reports of the Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of the United States, for the First Circuit. The new acquisition consists of two beautiful volumes, published by Wells and Lilly of Boston in 1815 and 1817. At the time of publication, the court was primarily a trial-level court, and the judges rode circuit hearing cases. In 1891, our current Courts of Appeals were created and decisions were published in West’s Federal Reporter. In 1911, the original, federal circuit courts were abolished.
These lovely volumes are known as Gallison’s Reports, after John Gallison, who served as the Reporter of the First Circuit of the United States from 1812-1815. Gallison was a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts and the nephew of Chief Justice Sewall of the Supreme Judicial Court. Most opinions in these volumes were rendered by Justice Joseph Story and involved questions of admiralty and prize law.
We are excited to welcome Gallison’s Reports to our collection!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome to Laurel Davis

Filippa Marullo Anzalone, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Library and Technology Services, has announced that Laurel Davis will assume the position of Legal Information Librarian, Lecturer in Law and Curator of Special Collections. Laurel brings her background in law, legal research instruction and law librarianship to this position. Laurel has an exciting vision for the role of rare books in promoting the BC Law Library's mission. We look forward to many happy and productive years of collaboration with Laurel.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Let there be light!

The new exhibit case lighting system has been installed in the BC Law Library Rare Book Room exhibit cases. This LED lighting system is eco-friendly and it improves the visibility of the exhibit contents. Please drop by and see the re-installed Roman Law exhibit in the newly improved exhibit cases.

News from the BC Law Rare Book Room

We were pleased to host a visit from Professor Coquillette's Anglo-American Legal History class on March 15. Students browsed early law practice materials ranging from abridgments such as Abridgment of Coke’s Reports by Ireland (London, 1651) to a register of writs, Thesaurus Brevium, or a Collection of Writs (1687 – Latin) to early treatises such as Littleton’s Tenures (1592 Tottel ed. – English).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Interest in the Roman Law Exhibit

We appreciate the kind interest in the exhibit of Roman Law books shown by Dr. Otto Vervaart. Recently, Dr. Vervaart wrote to the Law Library to question our exhibit entry regarding the Joannes Ferrarius volume, Adnotationes in III. Institutionum Iustiniani Libros. Dr. Vervaart correctly identified this volume as being printed in Lyon, not in Leiden as our exhibit entry stated. We have made this correction and are grateful to Dr. Vervaart for his close inspection of the exhibit documentation. It is a wonderful experience to witness the attention and depth of interest expressed by legal scholars in this exhibit. And, of course, we are very grateful to Professor Michael Hoeflich for the generous donation of his Roman Law collection on which the exhibit is based.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New eco-friendly lighting for exhibit cases

The Law Library’s Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room will close on Friday, March 4 for a brief renovation project. The fiber optic lighting in the wall display cases will be replaced by an eco-friendly and equally non-damaging LED lighting system. The light replacement work will take place during the week of March 7. We expect to have the current exhibit of Prof. Michael Hoeflich’s recent gift of Roman law books on display again for the week of March 14.

We are confident that the new lighting system will enhance the beauty of the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room and also greatly improve the visibility of the materials we have on exhibit. Please be sure to come by and see the new lighting when we reopen during the week of March 14.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Over the River and Through the Snow . . .

After nearly 15 years at the Boston College Law Library, where I have had the great privilege of working with our special collections in the library's Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room, I will be moving across the river. In February I will become the Harvard Law School Library's Manager of Historical and Special Collections, where I look forward to advancing the cause of rare books, art, and manuscripts with a team of talented and dedicated colleagues.

All of us, I daresay, first fall in love with special collections work because we love the "stuff" - the artifacts themselves. Then, because we love our treasures so much, we delve into our collections as often as we can. Soon, because we love them so much, we strive to share them with others any way we can think of: by cataloging them, processing them, digitizing them, writing about them, and - my favorite thing of all - bringing them into the classroom where we can share them in person. And before we know it, a decade has gone by and we have a career - one that inspires, delights and challenges us every single day.

Well, at least that's what happened to me. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given to work with and develop our special collections and programs here at BC Law. In particular, I am grateful to Dan Coquillette: mentor, inspiration, great benefactor, and friend. He has been an angel to me, the library, the law school, and the university, and words cannot express my profound debt of gratitude.

I look forward to continuing the special collections adventure at Harvard, and from my new perch across the river I look forward to watching the continued growth and success of BC Law's special collections in the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room.

Cheers, Karen Beck

New Exhibit: The Michael H. Hoeflich Collection of Roman Law Books

As readers of this blog may recall, we received a wonderful gift of Roman law books back in December 2009, when Michael H. Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law, donated his fine collection of antiquarian and modern Roman law books to the Boston College Law Library. Dating from 1536, the collection of nearly 300 titles includes both seminal and lesser-known works on Roman, civil, and canon law in Latin, German, French, and English. The collection is both broad and deep, reflecting Professor Hoeflich’s knowledge of and passion for Roman law, bibliography, and the bookmaker’s art. All of us at the Boston College Law School are deeply grateful to Professor Hoeflich for this wonderful gift.

The books on display include a selection of the rare and antiquarian titles. The exhibit will be on view through early June 2011. Please visit us if you can, but if you cannot, here are few highlights of some of the choicest items.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Announcing the Third Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books Section* (LH&RB) of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the third annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition.

The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late and beloved Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Cohen was a leading scholar in the fields of legal research, rare books, and historical bibliography.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage scholarship in the areas of legal history, rare law books, and legal archives, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and law librarianship.

Eligibility: Students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, or related fields are eligible to enter the competition. Both full- and part-time students are eligible. Membership in AALL is not required.

Requirements: Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., March 15, 2011. The winner will be announced by April 15.

Awards: The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses associated with attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting. The runner-up will have the opportunity to publish the second-place essay in LH&RB’s online scholarly journal Unbound: An Annual Review of Legal History and Rare Books.

Please direct questions to Robert Mead at or Sarah Yates at

*Pictured: Hughes-Humphreys, the LHRB-SIS's Official Mascot.