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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Upcoming Exhibits (Part II): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection

This spring semester, a second exhibit will partner with "Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center." The second exhibit, “‘Böcker Har Sina Öden’ (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center,” will meditate on the artifactual value of books through the prism of our outstanding Swedish law collection. In the exhibit, Professor Eric Bylander, Distinguished University Professor in the Faculty of Law, Uppsala University, describes Swedish law books he has chosen for their uniqueness as historical objects. In particular, he has identified notable owners of the volumes, and physical features that draw attention to the richness of these treasured books. As Professor Bylander shows, the books in our Swedish collection, too, have had their various destinies – they have gained their individual significance through time, and have eventually found a home here in Minnesota.

A rare book collector and an expert in heraldry, Professor Bylander developed a keen eye for rare law books that reflect on the history of Swedish law through their prior owners, often noted Swedish lawyers and politicians. Professor Bylander's own journey to Minnesota is also notable. He first visited the Law School in 1997, as an exchange student, and has returned twice as a visiting professor, most recently in 2019. His interests in our collection were piqued during a visit in 2015, and some of the results of his research into the collection will be on display. For more on our Swedish law collection, please see our earlier blog post, and stay tuned for more information about the spring exhibits.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections  

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Upcoming Exhibits: Treasures from the Riesenfeld Center

In the spring semester, the Riesenfeld Center will host a new exhibit, "Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center." Displayed will be selected older collection items as well as newer acquisitions which have special significance (and often beauty) as historical objects. These are not only famous editions or canonical texts, but books that have added historical value, whether it is a famous former owner, revealing handwritten notes, a beautiful binding, or remarkable engravings. Rare books tell their own stories, often through features that at first seem ancillary to the texts themselves. In fact, these features greatly enrich the value of a book as a historical artifact and object of study.

In some cases, a text itself may be unusually notable, particularly when it is unique. Manuscript books, for example, call attention to the origins of standardized printed texts, and can raise questions about the permanence and stability of textual information. In the upcoming exhibit, one manuscript book deserves special notice. This is a copy of William Lambard's Archeion: or, a Treatise of the High Courts of Justice in England, which was made from another manuscript probably around 1600. 

Lambard (1536-1601) was a lawyer, antiquarian, and the leading legal treatise writer of his day. He was appointed under Elizabeth I as the keeper of the rolls, and became keeper of the records in the Tower of London. His Archaionomia (1568), compiled with Laurence Nowell, was the first printed collection of Anglo-Saxon laws in Old English, and included the first printed map of England. 

Around 1591, Lambard completed Archeion, the most useful treatise on courts and court procedure in Elizabethan England. It circulated among lawyers and students like many works did (particularly law reports) - in handwritten copies painstakingly made from other manuscripts. Archeion was not printed until 1635, after Lambard's death, when it appeared in an unauthorized edition produced from a circulating copy like the one in our collection. The accuracy of the text was quickly contested by Lambard's own grandson, who rushed an "authorized" version of Archeion to print in the same year.

Manuscript variations are an enduring issue for scholars studying the history of English (and other) law. Manuscript copies of course vary from printed editions as well, and variations can raise genuine questions of interpretation. This remarkable manuscript also awaits a scholar to discover its (perhaps surprising) variations!

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Monday, December 9, 2019

Finals Study Break: Wednesday, Dec. 11

Come out this Wednesday for a study break during finals! 

Grab coffee and tasty fresh-baked donuts outside of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center.

When: Wednesday, December 11, 11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Where: Outside the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center* 
What: Coffee and donuts!

* The Center is in N30, on the sub-plaza past Sullivan Cafe.

Good luck on finals, and best wishes for the holidays from the Law Library!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Riesenfeld Center Talk: Professor Jørn Sunde, Nov. 20 at 4 p.m.

Join us in the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center for a talk with Professor Jørn Øyrehagen Sunde of the University of Bergen, Norway. 

Professor Sunde will discuss the impact of printing on early modern Danish-Norwegian legal culture, with reference to several notable items in the Center's collections. Please see the details and abstract below for more:  

"Old Methods and New Technology: Printing and Early Modern Danish-Norwegian Legal Culture"

Wednesday, November 20, 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Mondale Hall, Riesenfeld Rare Books Center, N30 (on the subplaza level)

Abstract: the technology of printing changed Danish-Norwegian law fundamentally from the late 16th to the middle of the 18th century. When printing was introduced, the Norwegian Code of 1274 existed in more than 500 copies with more than 50,000 variations. Legal certainty would hence operate within a very wide framework. With the printing of the Code, the same black letter law was to be applied everywhere in the vast realm. Legal literature and decisions also circulated in manuscript before printing. With printing lawyers everywhere gained access to the same tools for interpretation. However, the mentality of lawyers did not change equally fast. Many preferred manuscript to print for several decades, and printing did not extinguish a mentality and a legal culture among Danish-Norwegian lawyers that was based on handwritten documents.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

New Darrow Letters: Transcription Project

The Law Library's collection of autograph letters by (and to) the legendary American attorney Clarence Darrow is represented now by over 1000 pieces of correspondence held in the Riesenfeld Center. It is the richest trove of Darrow's letters in the country and a terrific source for study. First acquired as part of the Law Library's millionth volume celebrations in 2004, the collection of letters was augmented by a significant second acquisition, and has been enlarged with additions since that time. As a result of the original purchases, the Library created an award-winning digital site, the Clarence Darrow Digital Collection, featuring images of the majority of the letters, together with transcriptions and additional historical context regarding the correspondents. This undertaking has made Darrow's letters accessible online for the first time, and provides a foundation for new perspectives on Darrow's storied career through the research of students and scholars. In addition, the digital site includes the most extensive and in-depth analyses of Darrow's leading court cases, which were created through the extraordinary work of Mike Hannon, our Associate Director for Access Services & Digital Initiatives, who also managed the creation of the site.

More recently, we have been transcribing letters not originally included online, with the aim of expanding the material available on the website. This material includes new purchases of letters made in the last ten years. Some of the notable correspondence relates to early moments and cases in Darrow's career, including an 1881 property law case in Ohio, not far from where Darrow grew up. Other letters relate to Darrow's relationship with his publishers, who printed his many articles and speeches; and to his wife Ruby, who maintained their circle of friends and protected her husband's image and legacy for years after his death in 1937. Some of the most notable letters throw light on his often controversial views on a range of social and political issues, including capital punishment and euthanasia. In one letter, Darrow eloquently addresses his position on capital punishment, arguing it is incompatible with a necessary human forbearance and mercy. On euthanasia, Darrow writes that the practice is illegal only on account of outmoded religious beliefs. Other letters concern Darrow's long fight against Prohibition, whose effects were felt in Chicago, for many years Darrow's home.

Darrow's handwriting is notoriously difficult to read. As America's most famous defense attorney and an avid public speaker, Darrow was relentlessly active over the course of an almost 60-year career, particularly between about 1905 and 1930. He frequently scrawled out notes on hotel letterhead, bearing place names from New Hampshire to Los Angeles, and often wrote on trains as he crisscrossed the country. Ian Moret, our special collections assistant, has been doing heroic work to decode Darrow's handwriting, often throwing light on unknown moments and little known figures in the lawyer's life. One example is the letter mentioned above from 1881, which represents the second dated letter in our collection and first related to Darrow's career. In it, Darrow discusses a property case he was engaged in as a young lawyer, not long after passing the Ohio bar. Ian's good post on the letter, and our initial transcription work, is over on our Tumblr blog. A few letters, like this difficult one, are good candidates for crowdsourcing!

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Wednesday, Oct. 30: Rare Books Halloween Open House!

All are invited to the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center's special Halloween Open House this Wednesday, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.! 

Come out to see new spooky treasures from our collection (from sensational trials to the fantastical and macabre) - and pick up free snacks, drinks, and Halloween candy!

After visiting, check out the second annual Technology, Tips, Tricks & Treats event

When: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
Where: Riesenfeld Rare Books Center
What: Rare books, snacks, drinks, and candy!

(The Center is in N30, sub plaza on the hallway past Sullivan Cafe and N20.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Travelling Exhibit at the Diana E. Murphy Courthouse

On October 16, the federal courthouse in Minneapolis was renamed in honor of trailblazing federal judge Diana E. Murphy ('74) (1934-2018). Judge Murphy was lauded during the ceremony for her extraordinary list of firsts as a woman on the bench, and for her incredible dedication to the profession and to public service, in a judicial career that spanned forty years. At the conclusion of the ceremony, attendees gathered outside for the renaming of the building as the Diana E. Murphy United States Courthouse.

For the celebration, the Law Library created a "travelling" edition of its current exhibit, "Women in the Law: Pioneers of the Courtroom," and a display of standing panels and photographs from the Library's display on Judge Murphy's storied career. The travelling exhibit highlights the achievements of Minnesota women judges who were among the first women in the state to serve on the bench. Ian Moret, the Special Collections Assistant, led our efforts to organize the travelling exhibit. Ian did terrific work to condense our "Women in the Law" exhibit in order to fit the courthouse lobby display case, and installed the exhibit for the event. The logistics involved were substantial, and Ian handled them with his customary expertise. During the commemorative ceremony, Judge Nancy Brasel, who headed the event's planning committee, thanked the Law School for its contribution.

The travelling exhibit, "Women in the Law: Pioneers of the Courtroom," will be on display during business hours at the Diana E. Murphy Courthouse for the next several months.

  - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections