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A Law Student Collects: Simon Greenleaf and Michael Morales - Spring 2009

Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room

Michael Morales is a third-year law student at Boston College. He is also completing an M.A. in Higher Education Administration at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. Michael first became interested in collecting works by Simon Greenleaf while working as a research assistant for Professor Daniel R. Coquillette during the summer of 2007. The summer project involved assisting Professor Coquillette with his forthcoming two-volume history of the Harvard Law School. Michael first discovered Greenleaf while conducting background research for the project. As a member of BC Law’s Law and Religion Program, Michael was particularly interested in Greenleaf because much of his work combined both law and religion. Michael was also fascinated by Greenleaf because he was an early American legal educator.

Although building a library of rare law books and manuscripts can be quite an expensive hobby for a student, Professor Coquillette showed Michael how one could collect on a budget by focusing on certain 19th-century legal figures.

After working for Professor Coquillette for about a month, Michael purchased his first Greenleaf letter on eBay. He bought a second one four hours later and quickly realized that collecting Greenleaf would become a minor obsession. He learned to bargain with rare book dealers and set up automatic searches to alert him whenever new material came on the market. For better or worse, his newfound hobby continued through the school year and nary a month went by when he did not purchase some Greenleaf-related item. Today, Michael occasionally goes through “acquisition withdrawals,” having already purchased every Greenleaf composition he can find for less than a thousand dollars.

The exhibit is broadly arranged by theme. It was curated by Michael Morales, BC Law 2009, and Karen Beck, Curator of Rare Books / Collection Development Librarian. It will remain on view through early June 2009. Unless specified otherwise, all materials on view are from the collection of Michael Morales.

Below are a few highlights from the exhibition. A handout describing the entire exhibit is available here.


SIMON GREENLEAF, A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN AND PRINCIPLES OF FREE MASONRY.
Portland, 1820.

This book is a compilation of a series of lectures given by Greenleaf in 1817 and 1818 at several Masonic lodges in Massachusetts. This handsome volume contains a magnificent engraved frontispiece, shown below. It once belonged to the Richmond Masonic Library Association, where it was cataloged as item #133.

Mason Title PageMasonic Library Association Rules
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THE PUBLICATIONS OF THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY. Vol. VI.
New York, undated.

This volume is opened to tract number 168, "To a Person Engaged in a Lawsuit," written anonymously by an "eminent Counsellor at Law, still in the practice of his profession." The author, Simon Greenleaf, urges readers to "consider the long train of evils, temporal and spiritual, in a Lawsuit."

Lawsuit Tract
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THE PUBLICATIONS OF THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY. Vol. IV.
New York, undated.

In this volume Greenleaf wrote an anonymous three-part article entitled "Obligations of a Guardian," "To the Relatives and Friends of the Ward," and "To the Ward." Although ostensibly a legal tract, much of the advice Greenleaf dispenses is common-sense, and based on religious teachings. The book is exhibited closed to show its handsome binding. The leather is called tree calf, because its markings resemble a tree.

Tracts Cover
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LETTER FROM SIMON GREENLEAF TO JOHN HARRIS.
Waterville, June 3, 1832.

Greenleaf wrote this letter to John Harris, a Prison Keeper in Portland, Maine. It appears that Greenleaf acted as Mr. Harris’ attorney in a lawsuit: "You will be gratified to hear that the Court have this morning decided Fullerton’s case in your favor . . . ."

Letter - frontLetter - back
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LUCIUS M. SARGENT, THE TEMPERANCE TALES. Vol. IV.
Boston, Cambridge & N.Y, undated.

John H. Sheppard’s memoir of Sargent credits Greenleaf as having written the material for this story about the afflictions of a woman and her children caused by her husband’s home-brewed cider that was “equal to wine.” This volume is opened to an engraved frontispiece of Kitty Grafton defending her son Elkanah against her drunken husband Ethan.

Kitty Grafton
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