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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jewels in the Crown: Law and Literature

Bleak House. London, 1853
Law, literature and satire forms a cherished collection at the Library. Many titles can be found in the Barbara Steffens Hedin Alcove on Law, Literature and the Arts, on the second floor. An additional portion is held in the Riesenfeld Center, including those shown in our fall exhibit. Among other titles on display are two legal works owned by and written by the writer Vladimir Nabokov’s father, a jurist and law professor, and a first monograph edition of Dickens's Bleak House. Perhaps Dickens's greatest critique of English law and lawyers, Bleak House centers on an endless litigation in the Court of Chancery, an equity court often accused of inefficiency and mismanagement due to long proceedings. Also displayed are satires like The Pleader's Guide and George Ruggle's Ignoramus (1615). Ruggle's work, extremely successful as a university play, was itself modeled on La trappolaria (1596) of Giambattista della Porta and on Plautus. The difficult law Latin used in contemporary English courts is sent up in some of its popular scenes. In the picture below, the title character Ignoramus stands beneath a lawyer's books and the case of "Proude Buzzard contra Peake Goose."           

George Ruggle (1575-1622).  Ignoramus, comoedia.  London, 1668.
Frank Lockwood (1846-1897).  The Law and Lawyers of Pickwick: A Lecture.  London, 1894.
John Anstey (-1819).  The Pleader’s Guide: A Didactic Poem in Two Parts.  London, 1804.
Vladimir Nabokov (1870-1922).  Sbornik Stateń≠ po Ugolovnomu Pravu.  St. Petersburg, 1904.
Aleksandr Bogdanovskii (1832-1902).  Molodye Prestupniki.  St. Petersburg, 1871.  [with V. Nabokov’s bookplate.]

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Ignoramus, comedia. London, 1668.

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