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Recent Additions to the Collection - Fall 2001

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

The Boston College Law Library is delighted to display these recently acquired books for the first time. Many of the items are unique and special due to their age, condition, scarcity, and legal or historic significance. Taken as a group, they also are special because they add to the Library’s growing collection of works likely to have been owned by practicing lawyers in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.

These books show us how lawyers (and occasionally, laypeople) studied, researched, and thought about the law. Even in this electronic age it is surprising to see how little the tools of the law have changed over the centuries. Displayed here are antecedents to modern case reporters, digests, statutory codes, form books, legal self-help books, commercial outlines and "nutshells," and – in perhaps a bit of a stretch – even databases of client correspondence. We share more of the intellectual, pedagogical, and professional traditions with lawyers of centuries past than might be evident at first blush.

Many of these works have arrived at the Boston College Law Library through the generosity of faculty, alumni, and friends. The Library is especially grateful this year for faculty gifts. Displayed here are gifts from Professors Baron, Huber, Nicholson, and an extensive gift from Professor Coquillette of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century legal materials. The exhibition was curated by Karen Beck, Legal Reference Librarian and Curator of Rare Books. It will remain on view from September through December 2001.

Photo of Justinian's Institutes, 1507 editionJustinian. Institutiones Imperiales. Paris: Johan Ravensburch, 1507.

In 530 A.D., Justinian, Emperor of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire, decided to undertake a major reorganization of the chaotic mass of Roman law. He appointed a team of legal scholars to select, compile, and organize the Roman laws into a coherent work known as the Digest or Pandects. This first compilation was completed in 533. After its publication, Justinian ordered that all older Roman law books be destroyed. Justinian's next task was to direct the preparation and publication of the Institutes, an elementary Roman law textbook for students. Both works were well-organized, easy to use, and extremely influential in the development of the legal codes of other nations. This beautiful original vellum binding features intricate stamping on its front and back covers. Inside, the book is printed in Latin in red and black, and contains occasional marginal manuscript annotations in an early hand. Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette.

Photo of James Booth's Litchfield student notebooks, 1810-1811James Booth, Jr. Litchfield Law School Lecture Notes. Litchfield, Connecticut: 1810-1811.

This pair of volumes contains the class notes of James Booth, Jr., taken while he was a student at the Litchfield Law School in Connecticut. Litchfield students copied notes verbatim from the lectures of the Law School’s two proprietors, Tapping Reeve and James Gould. Litchfield was the first American law school, and launched the careers of hundreds of law students during its years of operation from the 1780s until 1833. Many of its graduates went on to distinguished careers, including Mr. Booth, who became Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.




Photo of John Senter's legal correspondence, 1879John H. Senter. Letters. Warren, Vermont: ca. 1879-1890.

This collection of letters presents a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of John Senter, a small-town Vermont lawyer, superintendent of schools, and insurance agent for Union Mutual Insurance Company. The volume begins with an index of Mr. Senter’s correspondents and the pages at which his letters to them are located. Displayed here is a demand letter dated April 14, 1879, to Walter Pike, Esquire: "Dear Sir, John L. Tuttle of Montpelier has sent me a bill of taxes against you amounting to $11.20 which he says must be paid immediately or he will make you cost and trouble. You must govern yourself accordingly. Yours truly, John H. Senter." Gift of Richard G. Huber.