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"A Little Library": The Private Law Library of Frank Williams Oliver - Fall 2008

daniel r. coquillette rare book room

In the Spring of 2008, the Boston College Law Library received a splendid gift of old and rare books from Andrée Oliver, widow of Frank Williams Oliver. During his forty-year career as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, and continuing during his retirement years in Miami, Frank Oliver amassed a private law library of about 300 works, including the rare books featured in this exhibit. His library spans the areas of law, history, legal history, biography, classics, political theory, and religion.

Many of Frank Oliver’s books feature his delightful bookplate:

Oliver bookplateClick on image to see a larger view

The exhibition begins with a sampling of materials about Frank Oliver’s life. It continues with examples of historical, biographical, and philosophical works; legal and general dictionaries; works by Sir Edward Coke; criminal law materials; and more. Highlights include a magnificent German Bible from 1693, with its original binding and clasps still intact; a book that once belonged to famous American lawyer Clarence Darrow; and a rare first edition of Noah Webster’s AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, dated 1828.

The exhibit will remain on view through early December 2008. It was curated by Karen Beck, Curator of Rare Books / Collection Development Librarian. A very special thanks to Frank Oliver’s friend and colleague Judith Halprin for providing photographs and information about his life, and for facilitating the donation of his library to the Boston College Law Library. And heartfelt thanks to Andrée Oliver for donating Frank Oliver’s books to the Law Library, where generations of students, faculty, and legal historians will benefit from her generosity.

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


BIBLIA SACRA VULGATÆ EDITIONIS SIXTI V

Bamberg: 1693. This beautiful Bible was written in Latin, and published in Germany. It is bound in ornately tooled leather and features two working clasps that hold the book closed. The title page is printed in red and black, and the book features a magnificent engraved frontispiece.

Bible clasps  Bible cover  Bible title page Bible frontispiece

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ROBERT FROTHINGHAM, SONGS OF CHALLENGE

Cambridge, Mass.: 1922. 1st ed. This compilation of “poems of the human spirit” was once owned by the famous American lawyer Clarence Darrow, and features his bookplate (shown here). It appears that Frank Oliver purchased the book for $20 at an unknown date.

Darrow Songs of Challenge cover   Darrow Songs of Challenge bookplate

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MATTHEW HALE, THE HISTORY OF THE PLEAS OF THE CROWN

London: 1736. First edition; 2 vols. This magnificent work features an extra-large engraving of Sir Matthew Hale opposite the title page. Hale served as Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench from 1671 to 1676.

Hale frontispiece    Hale title page

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A COLLECTION OF THE SEVERAL STATUTES, AND PARTS OF STATUTES, NOW IN FORCE, RELATING TO HIGH TREASON, AND MISPRISION OF HIGH TREASON

London, 1709. This handsome little book is bound in black calf, and features extensive gold tooling on the covers and spine.

High Treason cover    High Treason title page

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