Monday, November 26, 2018

Spotlight on the Exhibit: Heavily Annotated Burn's Justice

Marginal notes in burglary section of textDo you write in your books? Over 250 years ago, the owner of this copy of Richard Burn’s Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer (London, 1755) wrote in the margins—and bound in over 70 extra pages in the back for making more notes! Check out the annotations on the topic of "Burglary."

Manuscript annotations on added pages

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Exhibit in the Rare Book Room: Recent Additions to the Collection

Catalog cover for Recent Additions 2018 exhibit
We have a new exhibit on display in the Rare Book Room for the fall semester featuring additions to the collection over the past three years or so. Some highlights include: heavily annotated copies of important legal texts like Edward Coke's Reports and Richard Burn's Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer; a trial pamphlet for an 1859 Boston trial regarding the alleged assault and battery by a teacher upon a Roman Catholic pupil for his refusal to recite the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments; a statement of account from Daniel Webster's legal practice before he entered the world of politics; a writ from a lawsuit filed by James Otis Sr.; and perhaps most fascinatingly, a 1796 statement of account between a Sturbridge blacksmith and another individual in which a debit is listed for "one black man," against a credit for a sorrel horse--this would provide a unique lens through which a student could examine the legal status of people of color in the Commonwealth, even after the effective legal abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.

If you don't have a chance to visit the Rare Book Room (generally open weekdays from 9-5), please take a look at the exhibit webpage. This exhibit will remain on display into early 2019.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New acquisition: a 19th century law student outline?

Title page of the analysis
First page of the outlineWe loved this recent acquisition because it looks like a modern day law student outline! Following the structure of Joseph Story's Commentaries on Equity Pleadings (2nd ed, New York, 1940), the author created a detailed outline of Story's famous treatise, skipping only the short introductory chapter. Though the "title page" of the manuscript refers to the work as an analysis of Story's work, it really is simply a distillation of Story's main points, moving from chapter to chapter. The compiler often added references in the margins to the specific page of Story's work being summarized.

There is no identifying information about the compiler; the final page is dated March 10, 1842, and the paper, which features the Brittania watermark, has the embossed crest of the Owen & Hurlbut paper mill in Lee, Massachusetts. It seems likely that a Bay Stater--possibly a Harvard law student--compiled the outline. Indeed, Story assigned this text to his students during the 1842-1843 term (HLS catalogue for 1842-43 term, pages 11 and 13).

Our friends at the Lawbook Exchange, from whom we purchased this manuscript, wondered if the author (potentially a lawyer instead of a student) intended it to be published, as it is a fair copy with few corrections and to their eye, formatted for a typesetter. To me, it seems like an aid created by a student for his own study, particularly with the focus on distillation instead of analysis, but it will be interested to hear from others, as folks discover this manuscript.

Many thanks to Michael von der Linn at the Lawbook Exchange for his most helpful description.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Acquisition: Personal Library Catalogue of Prominent Nineteenth-Century NYC Lawyer

page from Hawkin's catalog listed his law books Bound in beautiful Morocco, this catalogue highlights the intellectual pursuits of Dexter A. Hawkins, one of the founders of the preeminent New York City firm Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP. Originally from New England, Hawkins opened up his practice at 10 Wall Street after reading law with Maine lawyer William Pitt Fessenden and completing his studies at Harvard Law School. The firm quickly expanded and became known for its specialty--governmental finance.

Hawkins detailed his impressive collection in meticulous script, organized by subject matter as laid out in an indexed table of contents. Notable titles from his law collection include:

  • Code Napoleon. Paris, 1809.
  • Vattel’s Law of Nations. Philadelphia, 1861.
  • Charters for City of New York, proposed by Committee of Seventy. 1872.
  • Webster's Speeches and Forensic Arguments. Boston, 1830.

His library enumerates several titles related to international law, as well as U.S. constitutional history and legal commentary. He also had a penchant for Greek, Roman, and American history, as well as illustrated works and texts on education, a subject for which Hawkins was famous as a promoter of free, nonsectarian public schools. Relatedly, Hawkins appears to be well-versed in foreign language, indicating volumes on the languages of Greek, French, Spanish, and German.

Sources: The Lawbook Exchange and website of Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP

This post was written by Lauren Koster, BC Law Class of 2019. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New exhibit on view--Robert Morris: Lawyer & Activist

Cover of Robert Morris exhibit catalog We are pleased to announce the opening of the spring exhibit in the Law Library's Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room. Curated by Mary Bilder and Laurel Davis, the exhibit is entitled "Robert Morris: Lawyer & Activist".

Morris (1823-1882), long known as one of the first African-American lawyers in the country, was a mover and shaker in Boston anti-slavery circles but also a full-throated civil rights activist in many other areas. He also had a fascinating relationship with Boston's Irish community and a very young Boston College.

All books in the exhibit belonged to Morris and are here on generous loan from Boston College's John J. Burns Library. Additionally, the Boston Athenaeum kindly loaned multiple items from their Robert Morris papers. Through his books and papers, we were able to explore Morris's many dimensions.

For a sneak peek, take a look at the online exhibit!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Ninth 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.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend this year's AALL Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 17, 2017 (EDT).

Monday, January 9, 2017

New acquisition: 1613 edition of Justinian's Institutes

title page of justinian's institutes
The main focus of our collection is English and early American law books, but thanks to gifts by Professors Daniel R. Coquillette and Michael Hoeflich, we also have a strong collection of Roman law books. This new acquisition is a 1613 Venice edition of Justinian's Institutes, the synopsis of the Roman legal system that was designed to instruct law students. It's a key piece of the body of Roman law known as the Corpus Juris Civilis, organized and preserved by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. 

text of justinian's institutes, with glossThis edition was edited and annotated by Silvestro Aldobrandini (1499 — 1558), a Florentine legal expert. It features red and black printing on the title page and woodcut initials throughout. As it typical in Roman law books, the original text is printed in the center, with the gloss (or commentary) and other annotations printed around it.