Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Christmas from a child judge and murderous cat

We've once again been the beneficiaries of the generosity of Professor Michael H. Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas.  In addition to several lovely 17th century texts on Roman law, Professor Hoeflich has donated his collection of legal postcards and ephemera.  These were the subject of his book, The Law in Postcards and Ephemera, 1890-1962 (Clark, NJ: Lawbook Exchange, 2012). The book contains hundreds of images of ephemeral items that provide a glimpse into how the public viewed the law and lawyers.  Many of the cards portray children dressed up as lawyers. 

The card shown here features a child dressed a judge, apparently trying a very guilty-looking cat with the crime of murdering a bird.  I'm not sure where the "Happy Christmas" message comes in!  Is the kitty getting a reprieve from the beneficent kid judge?  Was the cat a menace and we're celebrating a holiday miracle that s/he can no longer terrorize the neighborhood?  I don't know, but it's a wonderful little item.  Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries, in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Sixth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late 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 competition is designed to encourage scholarship, and to acquaint students with the American Association of Law Libraries and law librarianship. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields.
The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., March 17, 2014.

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."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New acquisition: Bacon's Novum Organum Scientiarum

This is another exciting addition to our wonderful Francis Bacon collection, which is currently on exhibit.  The Novum Organum was the centerpiece of Bacon's planned masterwork on science and philosophy, which he called the Instauratio Magna.  In the Novum Organum, Bacon detailed his view that inductive reasoning is the best method for scientific inquiry.  Professor Coquillette's gift included a first edition of this work; this new acquisition is the second edition, which was published in Latin (the first is in English) in Leiden in 1645.

The title page features a ship boldly pushing past the Pillars of Hercules, a mythical symbol of the outermost bounds of knowledge.  The Latin phrase beneath the picture translates (courtesy of Google Translate!) as "Go through and increase knowledge." 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Intriguing colonial court document

This document, dated January 4, 1723, is bluntly labeled on the verso as "Jesse Harding's recognizance about killing the Indian."  

Jesse is identified as being from Eastham, Massachusetts and about fourteen years old.  Before justices of the peace in Barnstable County, Jesse and the other person charged acknowledged themselves to be bound to their sovereign King George by way of recognizance in the sum of 500 pounds.  The recognizance aimed to secure their appearance at the next sitting of His Majesty's Court of Assize in April 1724.  The charge?  Killing one Betty Stephen, described in the recognizance as an Indian woman.  

Some background research by the dealer led to a summary of the subsequent findings by the grand jury.  Apparently, despite finding that Jesse fatally shot Betty in the neck in an act of premeditation, the grand jury returned the bill of indictment with the notation "ignoramus," which means that the bill was rejected and the parties discharged.  One has to wonder how much the victim's race, as well as the accused's age, factored into the grand jury's determination.

Many thanks to Michael von der Linn of The Lawbook Exchange for the fascinating description and background research on this intriguing item. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Francis Bacon on Gardens

In honor of our current exhibit on Francis Bacon and Professor Coquillette, we recently acquired this beautiful edition of Bacon's essay Of Gardens.  This gorgeous book was printed in 1902 at the Eragny Press, an English press owned and operated by Lucien Pissarro (son of the great impressionist Camille) and his wife, Esther.  It is a stunning little book, printed on handmade paper with beautiful type and borders.

Two-hundred twenty-six copies were printed, and two-hundred of those were offered for sale.  This copy once belonged to Leonard Baskin (1922-2000), the American sculptor, art professor at Smith College, and founder of the Gehanna press, which printed its own edition of Of Gardens in 1959. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New exhibit on Francis Bacon in the Rare Book Room

I am happy to announce a new exhibit, Francis Bacon: Of Law, Science, and Philosophy, at the Boston College Law Library in the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room.  The exhibit features works by Francis Bacon from a magnificent gift by our own Daniel R. Coquillette, J. Donald Monan Professor of Law.  

 Especially notable titles include a pristine first edition of Bacon’s groundbreaking work The Advancement of Learning (1605); a 1639 printing of his infamous and controversial The New Atlantis; and a beautiful first edition of The History of the Raigne of Henry the Seventh (1622), which is often a focal point of theorists who believe that Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays. 

We welcome visitors to view the exhibit any time the room is open, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.  This exhibit will remain on display through January 2014. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A hilarious blog with advice from old books...

My friend Karen Beck, Curator of Historical and Special Collections at the Harvard Law Library, recently shared a post from this fantastic blog, Ask the Past.  Editor Elizabeth Archibald has assembled a thoroughly amusing collection of advice from old books.  The accompanying visuals, sometimes from the books themselves and sometimes from other sources, never fail to add to the hilarity and to illuminate the content. 

My personal favorite post is "How to Bust a Move" (accompanying illustration shown above), which quotes Catharine E. Beecher's book Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families from 1856.  There's nothing quite like reading about how to dance.  Old books are wonderful, aren't they?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Finch's Law

Sir Henry Finch (1558-1625) was an English lawyer and author.  This work represents the first English edition of a treatise first published in Latin as Nomotechnia in 1613.  It is one of the few notable original works of legal literature to come out of 17th century England. As Sir John Baker writes in his Introduction to English Legal History, this was "a bold and original essay at methodising the common law by the use of dialectical techniques learned at Cambridge." Finch's attempt to synthesize the common law undoubtedly influenced later writers such as William Blackstone. Another important edition of this work, commonly called Finch's Law, lives in our collection; it is a 1759 edition with notes by Danby Pickering of Gray's Inn. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Day book of a 19th century Pennsylvania lawyer

Our collection focuses on the activities of working lawyers in England and America--the books they likely would have owned and any records of their day-to-day lives as legal professionals.  Thus, this little day book from a Pennsylvania attorney makes a perfect addition to our collection.  Entries cover the period from 1870-1919, when attorney Eugene Snyder was practicing in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

As Michael von der Linn from Lawbook Exchange writes in his description of the item, Snyder "attended Dickinson College, read law with a local attorney and attended Harvard Law School, was admitted to the Dauphin County Bar in 1860 and practiced in Harrisburg. He appears to have led a rather uneventful life. According to a 1907 biography, 'Mr. Snyder is an extremely unassuming man, of mild temperament. He does not like notoriety, has never been a candidate for or held office, and prefers the quiet office practice to the more spectacular work of the court. He has a fair share of office and commercial legal business' (Maspero). His day book, which lists services rendered and fees charged over a 49-year period, concurs with this description. As such, it offers a fine perspective on the professional activity of a well-respected attorney with a solid, but routine, practice." Maspero, The Twentieth-Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania II:25 (online edition).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New acquisition: don't steal my fruit!

This broadside is one of my favorite recent acquisitions.  It's a reward poster created in 1874 by the selectmen of Dracut (a small town in northern Massachusetts near the New Hampshire border), offering a $25 reward to those who help arrest and conviction perpetrators of destruction of town property or for the violation of a particular Massachusetts statute.  The statute at issue, Section 83 of Chapter 161 of the General Statutes, provided for a $100 fine or 3 months in the House of Corrections for anyone convicted of stealing or otherwise absconding with fruit, flowers, trees, etc. from someone's orchard or nursery.  I suppose there must have been a problem with this type of trespass and thievery in the town at this time!

$25 Reward Poster for Trespass and Stealing Fruit
 I was curious if the specific provision is still on the books, as it would make for a nice exercise in statutory research for our students.  It is indeed!  The penalty has risen to a potential $500 fine or 6 months in the House of Corrections, but otherwise it's essentially the same. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Digging in the Brooker Collection: A Family History

I just ran across this charming item while preparing documents for digitization in our so-called "Brooker Collection."  This is a detailed history of the Fuller family, starting with the Thomas Fuller's arrival in Salem Village in 1638.  It's a very personal family history, carefully documenting marriages, moves, and new additions to the family.  It's a lovely multi-page document, tied at the top edge with a pink ribbon.

The Robert E. Brooker III Collection of American Legal and Land Use Documents: 1716-1930 is an a collection of special documents and manuscripts donated to the Boston College Law Library by Robert E. Brooker, III, in 2004.

The collection, which Mr. Brooker painstakingly acquired over many years, features approximately 2,500 documents and manuscripts. Focused primarily on Boston and the New England area and spanning two centuries, the Brooker Collection provides abundant opportunity for the study of early American land use and transfers, law and legal systems, town governance, family matters and daily life.

Please take a look at the digital collection (scroll down to "Brooker Collection") of these documents.  New documents are being added all of the time thanks to the hard work of many folks who have worked to digitize important historical documents here at Boston College.  A special shout out to Naomi Rubin and Betsy McKelvey who have been working for years to make this content available to researchers and other interested parties. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Intriguing Initials and a Year Book of Henry IV and V

This new acquisition is a Year Book containing cases from the reigns of Henry IV (reigned 1399-1412) and Henry V (1413-1422) and was printed in London by Thomas Wight in 1605.  It has a lovely contemporary calf binding with the initials "EC" blind-stamped onto the upper and lower covers.   Could this volume be from the library of the great English common lawyer, Sir Edward Coke?  The title is included in A Catalogue of the Library of Sir Edward Coke (Yale, 1950), and it indicates the three copies listed remain at the Holkham Library in Norfolk, England (Holkham has been home to the Coke family since 1609).  Those copies are all of earlier Richard Tottell editions of this book.  Perhaps this is a fourth? Apparently there are books in the Coke collection stamped with his initials, so I am curious if the stamps on this volume matches the others!

Regardless of its provenance, the Wight edition is a beautiful example of early 17th century English printing.  The photo above features the initials on the upper cover (zoomed in), and more photos can be viewed on our Facebook page

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bookplating Day in the Rare Book Room!

Graduation has passed, and the quiet of summer has descended upon the law library.  I usually use this time to catch up on some housekeeping tasks in the Rare Book Room.  Today's task: bookplating!  Every book that we are fortunate enough to acquire or to receive by gift receives a bookplate indicating its home in the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room, and, if appropriate, the name of the donor.  If our donor has his or her own bookplate, that is affixed to the book as well. 

This morning, my colleague Gaby and I made some Japanese wheat paste to use as our adhesive for the bookplates and made a day of it!  In the photo, Gaby is placing the appropriate bookplates in a book recently donated by Professor Michael H. Hoeflich

Monday, April 29, 2013

Recent acquisition: Joseph Story letter on bankruptcy law

This exciting acquisition is a letter from Joseph Story, the influential Harvard Law professor and legal scholar who served as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court from 1812 until his death in 1845.  Story penned this letter to one William Tudor, Esq. in the midst of his tenure on the Supreme Court. 

The contents show a rare glimpse into the opinion of an active Supreme Court justice on a matter before the U.S. Congress.  Story was a longtime supporter of federal bankruptcy legislation.  The first federal Bankruptcy Act, adopted in 1800, had been repealed in 1803. When this letter was written, Congress was considering a new bankruptcy bill, which Story clearly supported.  His correspondent, William Tudor, had asked for Story's support in securing a position as a Commissioner of Bankruptcy under the new legislation, if passed.  Story voices his support while noting that it's unclear who would have the power to make the appointment--the executive or the judiciary.  In the end, the law that was the subject of the letter failed to pass, but another one that Story actually helped draft was ultimately passed by Congress in 1841.  

The other pages of the letter are featured on our Facebook page.  Those interested in Justice Story and his writings would enjoy visiting the beautiful digital suite on Story created by the special collections staff at the Harvard Law Library.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Legal History Roundtable with Michael Hoeflich--Thursday, April 18th

Michael Hoeflich holds a B.A. and M.A. from Haverford College, a J.D. from Yale Law School and the M.A. and PhD from Cambridge University. He has taught at the University of Illinois, Syracuse University, and the University of Kansas and was dean of the law schools at Syracuse and Kansas. He is currently the John H. & John M. Kane Professor of Law at the University of Kansas. Among his publications are Roman and Civil Law & the Development of Anglo-American Jurisprudence (1998) and Legal Publishing in Antebellum America. 1780-1870 (2010).

Professor Hoeflich will discuss his work, "“From Scriveners to Secretaries: Legal Document Production in Nineteenth Century America."  

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. Meeting several times each semester, the Roundtable seeks to promote an informal, collegial atmosphere of informed discussion.

The talk will be held in the Law Library Conference Room (279), which is located behind the Rare Book Room.  Please take a look at the current exhibit in the Rare Book Room, which features books on Roman law that were gifted to the law library by Professor Hoeflich in 2009 and 2012.

Refreshments will be served starting at 4:15pm, and the talk will begin at 4:30pm. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New acquisition: Granville Sharp's "A Tract on Duelling" (1773)

Granville Sharp (1735-1813) is perhaps best known as the initiator of the British abolitionist movement and an important force in bringing the end of slavery in Great Britain. His antislavery work "The law of retribution, or, A serious warning to Great Britain and her colonies : founded on unquestionable examples of God's temporal vengeance against tyrants, slave-holders, and oppressors," published in 1776, was massively influential in Britain and the rebelling American colonies. We proudly hold that title as well, thanks to a generous gift from Professor Daniel R. Coquillette.

This new acquisition is the second and final edition of Granville Sharp's Tract on Duelling, in which he rails against the legal acceptance of the practice of duelling. Sharp collects the writings of none less than Sir Edward Coke, Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice Holt, and Henri Bracton to support his argument. Sharp wrote pamphlets on a variety of topics, and many, including this one, are quite impassioned. He goes right to the point in his Preface, writing that

"[t]he intention of the following Tract is to prove that the plea of sudden Anger cannot remove the imputation and guilt of Murder, when a Moral Wound is willfully given with a weapon:

That the indulgence allowed by the Courts to voluntary Manslaughter in Rencounters, and in sudden Affrays and Duels, is indiscriminate, and without foundation in Law:

And that the impunity in such cases of voluntary Manslaughter is one of the principal causes of the continuance and present increase of the vase and disgraceful practice of Duelling."

Sharp ends the tract with even stronger language, stating that it is disgraceful that the protectors of duelling "still persist in the unreasonable and unjust practice of punishing lesser crimes with more severity than the crying Sin of voluntary Manslaughter, which, as I have already proved in my preface, is absolutely unpardonable in this World, by the Law of God!"

Monday, March 18, 2013

Roman Law Exhibit on Display!

In December 2009 and December 2012, 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. Professor Hoeflich is a well-known scholar in many areas of law and legal bibliography, including legal history, comparative law, ethics, contracts, art law, and the history of law book publishing. His 1997 book, Roman and Civil Law and the Development of Anglo-American Jurisprudence in the Nineteenth Century, is a classic in the field.

Dating from 1536, Professor Hoeflich’s collection of over 500 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 his knowledge of and passion for Roman law, bibliography, and the bookmaker’s art. All of us at the Boston College Law School and Law Library are profoundly grateful to Professor Hoeflich for his generous donation.

The exhibit was curated by Laurel Davis, Curator of Rare Books/Legal Reference Librarian. It is largely based on a 2011 exhibit by Karen Beck, now Curator of Special Collections at Harvard Law Library. The current exhibit includes many books that were previously displayed, but it also incorporates some lovely works from Professor Hoeflich’s most recent gift.

Please visit the exhibit webpage to view photos of selected items from the recent gift, as well as the exhibit handout! The physical exhibit will remain on display throughout the spring semester.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rare Book Room closed over Spring Break (week of March 4th)

The Rare Book Room will be closed the week of March 4th for exhibit work. We plan to reopen on Monday, March 11th, with an exhibit on some of our beautiful Roman law books. The exhibit will feature books that have been donated by a great friend of the Rare Book Room, Professor Michael H. Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law. Please come see the new exhibit and use the room for studying or research when we reopen!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Treasures in the stacks--"tepee binding"

I love running across little gems when I am working in the stacks. Just like week, a patron came in to use Giles Jacob's Law Grammar (Savoy, 1754), and I was reminded of this fascinating book, donated to BC Law by the late Kitty Preyer. Notice how the leather was attached to the boards of the book by an eye-catching pattern of criss-crossing laces and copious loops and knots. It might not be the prettiest example of bookbinding, but it's certainly a fun one! Because of the noticeable triangular shape, the donor and curator at the time dubbed this 'tepee binding,' which I think perfectly describes the unique result.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Legal History Roundtable tomorrow!

Anne Fleming will be joining us at the Boston College Law School Legal History Roundtable on Thursday, January 10. Anne Fleming is a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law Harvard Law School. Her research interests include American legal history and contract law, with a focus on the relationship between law and poverty. In 2011, the American Society for Legal History recognized her work with the Kathryn T. Preyer Scholars Award.

Ms. Fleming will be discussing her draft paper, entitled "The Rise and Fall of Unconscionability as 'The Law of the Poor.'”

The event begins at 4:30PM in the Rare Book Room and is an opportunity for Boston College faculty and faculty from other area institutions, students, and members of the Boston College community to meet and discuss this paper. Refreshments will be available starting at 4:15. Parking on the Boston College Law School campus requires a visitor's permit. If you will be able to join us, please let Judy Yi know in advance by emailing Judy will e-mail a copy of the paper to those who can attend. You can also direct any further questions to Judy.

As is the usual practice for the Roundtable, Ms. Fleming will start by speaking for 10-20 minutes about the project, e.g., what prompted her interest in the project, major points, difficult questions that she is struggling with, etc. Then we have a more general conversation with the group as a whole, present questions and comments, and so forth.