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Thursday, May 26, 2016

New Rare Books Acquisition: The Reister Collection

Henry Swinburne, A Briefe Treatise of
Testaments and Last Wills
(London, 1590)
The Law Library and Riesenfeld Rare Books Center have recently received a donation of important rare law books from the collection of Raymond A. and Ruth A. Reister. The donation comprises nearly one hundred titles on inheritance, wills and estates in Anglo-American law that were collected by Mr. Reister during his lifetime. The books range from a rare 16th-century treatise, to valuable 17th- and 18th-century material, including books by William Blackstone and Francis Bacon, to humorous works on eccentric wills.  The collection represents a valuable resource for students and scholars interested in the history of this foundational area of law. The Reister collection will be kept permanently at the Law Library and Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center, and made available to patrons.

The Law Library and Riesenfeld Center is grateful to the trustees of the Ruth A. Reister Trust Estate, Robert Struyk (‘61) and Sonny Miller, for this generous donation. 

Raymond A. Reister (1929-2005), a long-time Minneapolis attorney, practiced for thirty-nine years at Dorsey and Whitney. A nationally recognized expert in Trust and Estate law, Mr. Reister was co-editor of Minnesota Estate Administration, and served, among other organizations, on the Board of the Minnesota Humanities Commission, as Treasurer of the Minnesota Historical Society, and Vice President of the Minneapolis Athenaeum. The Athenaeum seeks to acquire rare books and manuscripts for the public benefit. 

Mr. Reister's wife, Ruth A. Reister (1936-2015), graduated from Michigan Law School in 1964, as the only woman in her class. A leader in government and business, Ms. Reister worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, as deputy undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and later served as president of FBS Agricultural Credit Corporation. She was also very active in the local community.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections


Monday, May 23, 2016

New Tumblr Posts: Illustrated Law Books

Detail from Damhoudere, Praxis rerum
There are lots of great new posts on our Tumblr site, featuring more (wonderful) items from the Riesenfeld Center's collections. Barbara Berdahl, Special Collections Assistant Librarian, has mined rich veins of collection material in curating the Tumblr blog, and has mixed newly found and favorite items, from Supreme Court bobbleheads and fascinating trials, to medieval manuscript fragments. Although Barbara is departing soon, the Tumblr site is one terrific testament to her work.

Some of the greatest rare book and archival finds on the Tumblr blog are recent ones. Among many highlights, Barbara has honed in on examples of early modern illustrated works, including Andrea Alciato's pathbreaking Emblemata (1581), Johannes Buno's Memoriale Institutionum Juris (1672) - which uses intricate and beautiful visual mnemonics to teach principles of Roman law - and Joost de Damhoudere's Praxis rerum criminalium (1570), depicting in over 50 woodcuts the wide array of criminal offenses summarized in the work. Added to these are images from satirical works in our law and literature collection, our two accounts of the Minnesota state constitutional convention, a speech by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, images of medieval manuscript fragments that we have identified in the collection, and much more!

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Monday, May 2, 2016

Good Luck on Finals from the Riesenfeld Center!

Giles Jacob, A Law Grammar
(London, 1817)
The Law Library and Riesenfeld Center wish everyone the best of luck on finals! 

Although (perhaps) not of immediate use on exams, the Library's rare books collection contains a range of early legal study guides, many of which were commercially successful and helped to expand the legal publishing market. The most popular and prolific author of these in the 18th century, Giles Jacob (1686-1744), was lambasted by Alexander Pope in the Dunciad as "the blunderbuss of law," but Jacob's business was lucrative and provided a useful service.  

In the rare books collection there are a number of Jacob's works. Jacob's A Law Grammar; or, the Rudiments of the Law (our edition, 1817), appealed to students and laymen. It covers elementary definitions, maxims and principles of law, including this classic: if A wishes to kill B but misses and shoots C, he is held guilty of murder; if without intent, it is manslaughter. The work was still in print in 1850, more than 100 years after its first publication in 1744. 

Another work, The Compleat Attorney's Practice, outlines the "best rules and practice" in the King's Bench and Common Pleas, summarizing actions and procedure in those courts. The Statute Law Common-placed is an index of terms treated in the common law, with the statutes where they could be found discussed.

Jacob's most successful work, A New Law Dictionary, first published in 1729, combines a law dictionary with an abridgement of statutes, both important reference tools that were familiar and well-used by English legal practitioners. Jacob's own favorite work was reputedly The Student's Companion, which starts with the basic legal definitions of "accusation" and "action." 

It is too bad that Jacob is not around today: he would try to pen (and profit from) the best study aids for today's exams.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections