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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Rare Books and Rare Baseball Cards

Millar, An Historical View... London, 1787.
The Riesenfeld Center has been very fortunate over the holiday season to receive several wonderful gifts. These include a set of "Supreme Court Sluggers" cards that money cannot buy (at least from the manufacturer), rare books surviving in only a few copies, and an 18th-century indenture that is both decorative and historically interesting.

We are very grateful for Professor David Weissbrodt's donation of an extremely rare first edition of law professor, historian and Enlightenment philosopher John Millar's An Historical View of the English Government (London, 1787), and an expanded edition of the work. The first edition comes in its original boards with untrimmed edges, preserving its historical look, and has the autograph of a likely owner, George Botts, scrawled across the cover in a large hand. Millar was a friend of Adam Smith and professor of law at the University of Glasgow for almost forty years. Professor Weissbrodt also gifted a fine early edition of Millar's most recognized work, The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks (London, 1781). Finally, we received from Weissbrodt a terrific example of a large 18th-century indenture, a contract so-called because of its jagged "teeth," by which it could be reunited (and thus legally validated) with its counterpart documents, forming an original whole.    

Our new "Supreme Court Sluggers" cards also deserve mention. Not unlike the popular Supreme Court bobbleheads (also produced by the Green Bag), the Sluggers feature Supreme Court justices past and present, printed on baseball cards. Each one comes with a quote from a decision included on a stick of "Thought Bubble Gum," and a useful tally of opinions in a stats table on back. As the Green Bag says, "We make no promises about when we will make them or who will get them. Indeed, we are avowedly and aggressively arbitrary and capricious about distribution." Fans of the bobbleheads will know that the rules are similar there. But in that case, to increase the odds of acquiring a bobblehead, the Green Bag offers a quiz -- happy hunting, and Happy Holidays and New Year!

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Magna Carta is Coming!

Magna Carta. London: Robert Redman, 1539
Next year is a remarkable anniversary for Magna Carta, one of the great documents and symbols of individual rights, and the rule of law, in the world. The “Great Charter” turns 800 in 2015, and will be commemorated throughout England, America and beyond, for its enduring witness to traditions of fundamental law and constitutional rights. Great celebrations are already underway in England and here in America at the Library of Congress, which has been loaned the Lincoln Cathedral copy of Magna Carta, one of four surviving originals of King John’s charter.
At the Law Library we will also host a year-long exhibition devoted to the history and influence of Magna Carta, seen through the wonderful rare books collection at the Riesenfeld Center. At the heart of the exhibit will be the Library’s set of fourteen Magna Cartas printed before 1600, including several associated with notable figures – one that inspired and was owned by great abolitionist Granville Sharp, and one produced by the first woman to print books in England, Elizabeth Pickering.

Stay tuned for more: we will blog about Magna Carta during the year and digitize the exhibit as well. In the meantime, here are some resources for events and exhibits in England and the US, including the Library of Congress exhibition. A final story is on a newly (re)discovered, possibly eye-witness account of Magna Carta, which comes to light just in time for the anniversary: 

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections