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Recent Additions to the Collection - Fall 2002

daniel r. coquillette rare book room - boston college law library

The Boston College Law Library is pleased to display for the first time a selection of rare books and prints it has recently acquired. The exhibition features a diverse group of books dating from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, including works printed by the noted law book printer Richard Tottell; collections and abridgements of cases, statutes and writs; works on legal education, criminal law and politics; and early legal reference works including catalogs, bibliographies and law dictionaries.

A special feature of this collection is a group of works by and about the seventeenth-century jurist Sir Edward Coke, including volumes of his case reports and several editions of his famous Institutes of the Laws of England. This group of new arrivals includes virtually everything Coke wrote. Another highlight is the Microcosm of London, a selection of fine color prints by Thomas Rowlandson that show the inner workings of early nineteenth-century London courtrooms and houses of government.

Once again this year the Boston College Law Library is most grateful for the generosity of faculty, staff and alumni who have donated the books displayed here and others as well. Warmest thanks to Associate Dean Henry Clay, Corey Norton (BC Law 2002) and Professor Daniel R. Coquillette, who donated an extensive collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century legal materials. The exhibit was curated by Karen Beck, Legal Information Librarian and Curator of Rare Books. It will remain on view from September through December 2002.

Court of Exchequer

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Thomas Rowlandson. Microcosm of London. 13 hand-colored plates. London: Rudolf Ackermann, 1808.

Reproduced here is one selection from this very rare set of plates showing the inner workings of London's early nineteenth-century legal profession. Note the checkered table in the print of the Court of Exchequer (the tax court). Lawyers and clients placed the sums they were alleged to have owed the government on the colored squares. The parties moved sums of money back and forth across the table until all (hopefully) agreed upon the proper amount of the tax.

Rudolf Ackermann was probably the most important color printer of early nineteenth-century England. He originally published the Microcosm of London in two volumes. It is now virtually impossible to find an intact set of these magnificent prints, which have been treasured by lawyers, judges and institutions since the day they were published.

Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.

Portrait of Sir Edward Coke Portrait of Sir Edward Littleton  

Table of Consanguinity

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Sir Edward Coke. The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England: or a Commentary upon Littleton, not the Name of the Author Only, but of the Law It Selfe. 4th ed. London: Printed by M.F., I.H. and R.T., assigns of I. More, 1639.

Perhaps Sir Edward Coke's most famous work is his Institutes of the Lawes of England, written in four parts. Without a doubt the most famous of these is the First Institute, A Commentary upon Littleton, more commonly known as Coke upon Littleton. The Boston College Law Library is fortunate to own several editions of this important work, and is delighted to display a sampling of its latest arrivals in this exhibit. This lovely volume includes engraved portraits of Coke and Littleton, both shown here. Signatures of three previous owners appear at the top of the title page. Note the table of consanguinity (i.e. kin relationships) tipped in at the end of the first chapter.


Written in the fifteenth century, Sir Thomas Littleton's Tenures (also on exhibit) remains famous as the first English legal treatise ever written. It addresses the subject of property ownership and inheritance - a subject with which first-year law students still grapple today. This treatise remained the most famous English legal work for two centuries, until Edward Coke penned his renowned commentary on Littleton's Tenures in the early seventeenth century. To prepare his monumental work, Coke thoroughly annotated Littleton's text, extracted the most essential portions of that work and other law texts, and then added his own glosses and commentaries to the mix. The result was Coke upon Littleton.

Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.

Middle Temple Head of Judge in Ice

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William Herbert. Antiquities of the Inns of Court and Chancery Containing Historical and Descriptive Sketches Relative to their Original Foundation, Customs, Ceremonies, Buildings, Government, &c. &c. with a Concise History of the English Law. 24 plates. London: Printed for Vernor and Hood and others, 1804.

The Inns of Court were the center of legal education for many centuries in England, and remain an important part of English legal culture today. Around 1300, law apprentices found lodging in private homes and other buildings in London. There they studied law and became part of a community consisting of legal scholars and practicing lawyers. By 1400 four "inns" assumed primacy: Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. By 1450 these four inns had become true professional schools for aspiring lawyers.

This work provides a glimpse at life inside the Inns, particularly their unique customs and their fabulous wealth. It contains a very rare large tipped-in fold-out of Middle Temple Hall, dated 1800, and several other large fold-out engravings as well. Note the "rare and curious plate of a Head of a Judge in ice," dated 1795.

Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.



Law Book Frontispieces Law Book Frontispieces

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Collection of Law Book Frontispieces.

The exhibition closes with a fascinating one-of-a-kind catalog that makes modern librarians and bibliophiles shudder. The anonymous owner of these works, probably an early-nineteenth-century lawyer, simply removed the title pages from each volume he owned and pasted them into a blank notebook to create a catalog of his collection! Two views are shown here. The catalog contains title pages from 388 important law books dating from 1514 to 1828, arranged roughly chronologically by year of publication.

Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.