The Boston College Law Library, as it currently stands, was completed in 1996 and dedicated in October of that year. Within its walls, tucked into a beautiful, climate-controlled space, was the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room. The Rare Book Room was dedicated a bit earlier than the library as a whole, with an inaugural exhibit and celebration on May 29, 1996.
The core of our beautiful collection, with its focus on recreating the libraries of real working lawyers in America and England, was donated over a span of years by our own Daniel R. Coquillette, J. Donald Monan, S.J., University Professor. To this day, the collection is used in classes such as Professor Coquillette’s Anglo-American Legal History course and Professor Mary Bilder’s American Legal History course to provide students with a tangible means of examining the centuries-long relationship between lawyers and their books.
The exhibit catalog is available to download.
The Rare Book Room’s twentieth anniversary provided us with the perfect opportunity to revisit the exhibits that have been housed in this beautiful space. This retrospective exhibit features only a small sampling of the exhibits (much less the books within them!) that have been on display since the dedication of the Rare Book Room. However, our hope is that this exhibit instills in visitors a sense of the richness of our collection and of the hard work and collaborations that have made these exhibits possible over the past two decades.
The exhibit was curated by Laurel Davis, Curator of Rare Books/Legal Reference Librarian. It will remain on view into the summer of 2016. Please come in and take a look! The exhibit catalog is available to download.
Institutiones Imperiales. Paris, 1507.
This beautiful edition of Justinian’s Institutes was featured in the very first Rare Book Room exhibit, which was mounted for the dedication of the room in 1996. This image shows a ruler (perhaps Justinian himself) flanked by bishops on the left and civil authorities on the right. The ruler holds important symbols of power—a sword in his right hand, indicating secular authority, and an orb topped with a cross in his left hand, indicating the world dominated by Christianity. Click on the image to view at a higher resolution.
Anonymous. Lecture Notes from William Blackstone’s Law Lectures at Oxford. Four volumes. Oxford, 1764-1766.
This lovely vellum-bound set of handwritten notes was compiled by one of Blackstone’s students and was a focal point of Notable Notes, a 1999 exhibit on student notebooks. In 1756, Blackstone anonymously published his An Analysis of the Laws of England, which was an outline of his lectures. These notebooks show how closely Blackstone tracked that outline in class. He regularly provided citations to legal works that illustrated his point, and the student took careful note of these references.
Stewart Kyd. A Treatise on the Law of Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes. Albany, 1800.
Kyd's treatise was on display as part of our Collectors on Collecting exhibit from the spring of 2002. It is from the collection of James S. Rogers, Professor of Law, who lent some early commercial law treatises that he used in writing his Early History of the Law of Bills and Notes. Kyd’s work was quite different from the other major work on bills of exchange by Sir John Bayley. Where Bayley gave either bare black letter law, or black letter law along with notes to supporting case law, Kyd did a very good job of weaving together the statement of rules and principles with the rationales for the rules given in the decision.
Professor Rogers notes that his copy includes notes on the rear flyleaf by a later owner, Daniel Ricketson, who listed the "law books used during my studentship" (including Blackstone, Kent, Comyn on Contracts, Story on Bailments, etc.). Ricketson also writes that "these and other works were read in a desultory fashion and with little profit." Evidently he felt guilty about those words as soon as he had written them, for he added a caret and interlined the word "consequently" before "with little profit" so that his lack of intellectual reward could be attributed to his "desultory" habits rather than the books themselves.
On generous loan from James S. Rogers, Professor of Law
#2014. Indentured Servant Contract. Shawangunck, New York, 1797.
In this fascinating document, the Overseers of the Poor in the town of Shawangunck and one Nicholas Hoffman agree that a pauper, Benjamin Evans, shall be bound to Hoffman until age 21 in exchange for “meat drink apparel washing and lodging, and other things necessary and fit for such an apprentice.”
Highlights from the Brooker Collection, 1716-1930: The Robert E. Brooker III Collection of American Legal and Land Use Documents exhibit was on display in the spring of 2004. It was curated by Karen S. Beck and featured highlights from a very special gift of documents and manuscripts generously donated to the law library by Robert E. Brooker III. The collection features approximately 2,500 documents and manuscripts, all currently being digitized. Focused primarily on New England and spanning two centuries, the Brooker Collection provides abundant opportunity for the study of early American land use and transfers, law and legal systems, town governance, family matters and daily life.
Gift of Robert E. Brooker III
Giles Jacob, Every Man His Own Lawyer, Or A Summary of the Laws of England in a New and Instructive Method. London, 1736.
In 2005, Kathryn Conway ("Kitty") Preyer bequeathed her magnificent collection of early English and American law books to the law library. This book is one of the many special titles from the 2006 exhibit Kitty Preyer and Her Books, which honored Kitty and her collection. In 2002, Kitty wrote that titles such as Jacob's “illustrate an appealing new genre in law publishing, the self-help manual. Jacob, a prolific compiler of practical works for lay readers, saw his publications as a way to preserve English liberty through a common understanding of the law.” This is the 1st English edition; Kitty’s bequest also included the 1st American edition. You can see the bookseller’s advertisement on the page facing the title.
Thomas More, De Optimo Reip. Statu, Deque Noua Insula Utopia... Basel, 1518.
This beautiful book was the centerpiece of a 2007 exhibit on our Saint Thomas More collection. It is a very early edition of Utopia, More’s 1515 novel in which the fictional traveler Raphael Hythloday describes the political arrangements of the imaginary island nation of Utopia. This edition features many engravings, including those shown here on the title page, which are taken from designs by Hans Holbein. Annotations by an early owner are sprinkled throughout the book and on the title page.
The 2007 exhibit on the More Collection was curated by Karen Beck, former Curator of Rare Books, with assistance from then-law library fellow, Laurel Davis, BC Law Class of 2006. The More Collection was purchased by the law school in 1961 from the estate of Arthur Brown. It contains approximately 100 titles focused on the life and work of Saint Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers.
Cornelii van Bynkershoek, Observationum Juris Romani Libri Quatuor. Leiden, 1735.
This work was one of many rare and antiquarian Roman law texts displayed in a 2011 exhibit in recognition of a generous gift from Professor Michael H. Hoeflich; the gift included many important texts on Roman law by preeminent European jurists from the 16th-19th centuries, including Jacques Cujas, Jacques Godefroy, and Arnold Vinnius. This example is from Dutch jurist, Cornelius van Bynkershoek. It was a standard text on Roman and civil law at Dutch universities for over a century.
Curated by Karen Beck, this 2011 exhibit featured books from a generous donation by Michael H. Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law. Dating from 1536, Professor Hoeflich’s collection of nearly 300 titles includes both seminal and lesser-known works on Roman, civil, and canon law in Latin, German, French, and English. The collection is both broad and deep, reflecting his knowledge of and passion for Roman law, bibliography, and the bookmaker’s art.
Gift of Michael H. Hoeflich
Hugo Grotius, Of The Rights of War and Peace. Three volumes. London, 1715.
This beautiful edition of Dutch humanist Hugo Grotius’ most famous work was a focal point of our Law Among Nations exhibit, curated by Laurel Davis and on display during the fall of 2012.
First published in 1625, Grotius' work was the first relatively comprehensive treatise on the law of nations, dealing with the laws of war and peacemaking and also treaty law and diplomatic law. The work had enormous influence on the ethical and legal thought of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is the source of Grotius’ reputation as the “father of international law”.
Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette
Francis Bacon, The Charge of Sir Francis Bacon Knight, His Majesties Attourney Generall, Touching Duells... London, 1614.
This is one of many special titles from Francis Bacon: Of Law, Science, and Philosophy, the 2013 exhibit that celebrated a spectacular gift of books by and about Bacon from our own Daniel R. Coquillette, J. Donald Monan, S. J., University Professor. When Bacon became attorney-general in 1613, one of his first tasks was to abolish the practice of dueling. In this speech to Parliament, he proposed that offenders be prosecuted in the Star Chamber, arguing that “men of birth and quality will leave the practice when it begins to be vilified, and come so low as to barber-surgeons and butchers, and such base mechanical persons.” The Bacon exhibit was curated by Laurel Davis.
Gift of Daniel R. Coquillette
A £ 150 Snapshot. London, Postmark 1920.
Our fall 2014 exhibit, The Law in Postcards, curated by Laurel Davis, featured legally themed postcards from a gift of Professor Michael H. Hoeflich. This card plays on the idea of securing evidence in order to obtain a divorce. Until recently, most jurisdictions required some sort of fault—such as adultery—by one of the parties. This is still the norm in the U.K.
Gift of Michael H.
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