Recent Additions to the Collection - Spring 2007
daniel r. coquillette rare book room - boston college law library
The Boston College Law Library is pleased to display this selection of works it has recently acquired. Most of them came to the library in 2006 thanks to the generosity of Professor Daniel R. Coquillette. Over the years, Professor Coquillette has given the library an incomparable collection of early American, English and Continental law which stretches over a period of five hundred years. Using these books, researchers can “step into the shoes” of working lawyers in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries – learning, reading and practicing the law just as they did.
Also on view are legal documents and manuscripts, including an important recent purchase by the library and a small selection from a magnificent gift of early American legal documents and manuscripts donated in recent years by Robert E. Brooker III. A larger sampling of documents from the Brooker Collection is available here.
The exhibition is loosely organized by themes. It begins with early examples of the bookmaker’s art, including a 1561 edition of Chaucer’s works, Greek and Latin classics from the early days of printing, and an Ethiopian manuscript Old Testament dating from the 1500s. The exhibit continues with important editions of Blackstone’s Commentaries, including the first American edition by Robert Bell. It concludes with a sampling of justice of the peace manuals and documents, a few works owned by notable early American lawyers, and original slip opinions from two cases that continue to be relevant today.
Below are a few highlights from the exhibit. A handout describing the entire exhibit is available here.
The exhibit was curated by Karen Beck, Curator of Rare Books. It will be on view through mid-June 2007.
MARCUS VALERIUS MARTIALIS, EPIGRAMMATON LIBRI XIIII …
Venice: “Ex Sirenis Officina” Petri Rauani & Socios, 1552.
Martial (c. 40-102 AD) was most famous for his Epigrammata, a series of books of epigrams he wrote over the course of many years. His epigrams remain of interest today because they give us insight into life in imperial Rome, and they reveal unchanging truths about human nature.
This book is bound in gold-embossed leather. It contains a striking engraving of a serpent on the title page (not shown). It is opened to the first text page, which features magnificent engraved initial capitals, elaborate glosses, and an array of fonts.
Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.
WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND. IN FOUR BOOKS … THE NINTH EDITION, WITH THE LAST CORRECTIONS OF THE AUTHOR; AND CONTINUED TO THE PRESENT TIME BY R.I. BURN
London: Printed for W. Strahan; T. Cadell, and D. Prince, 1783. 4 vols.
The Commentaries were so popular that in fewer than twenty years, they had been published in nine editions in England alone. This ninth edition is significant because it is the last edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries to include the corrections and annotations of the author himself. Later editions featured additions and annotations by other writers.
Volume 1 is opened to a fine engraved frontispiece portrait of Blackstone. It also contains an engraved bookplate of a prior owner, Lord Viscount Powerscourt, inside the front cover.
Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.
MANUSCRIPT #2351: JUSTICE OF THE PEACE NOTEBOOK
Robert Huston’s legal record book provides a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a justice of the peace in 1811 Bristol, Massachusetts (later Maine). Huston was an attorney, selectman and justice of the peace for the town of Bristol. In his record book he describes a variety of legal actions that were brought before him in his capacity as justice of the peace, as well as their outcomes. This information is especially valuable and rare, since most legal documents provide no hint of the ultimate outcome of a case.
This notebook shows us that, then as now, most legal actions disappeared before they ever made it to trial. Here is one example dated October 31, 1811:
These certify that Alex’dr Clark acknowledge that he had raised and circulated a report against Bridget Terril for clandastently taking milk from his cows when in the pasture and that he afterwards found that he had no cause to suspect the said Bridget nor family for the above charge – and that he was verry sorry he had circulated such report and gave her a certificate to that effect.
Attest – Rob’t Huston, Justice of the Peace
Gift of Robert E. Brooker III.