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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tuesday, April 18: Celebrate Clarence Darrow's Birthday!

Come out and celebrate Clarence Darrow's birthday with the Law Library!  There will be great treats - cake and cupcakes - as well as a quiz about Darrow, his life and career, for prizes.  Don't forget to take a selfie with Clarence!

When: Tuesday, April 18, 11 a.m - 1 p.m.
Where: Library lobby
What: Birthday cake, cupcakes, and prizes!

The Law Library and Riesenfeld Center holds the preeminent collection of Darrow autograph letters, as well as works by and about Darrow and his career.

It is never too late for good presents!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Medieval Manuscripts in the Rare Books Collection

One of the interesting and valuable finds in early modern books are medieval manuscript fragments. Used at the time to strengthen the books' bindings, particularly along the spines, they have since become a subject of interest for book historians. In our collection we occasionally come across these fragments - technically our earliest materials - and have recorded several examples. More spectacular and more rare are books that are fully covered in medieval manuscript leaves, of which we also have a few.

These volumes often draw the interest of visitors and scholars, not only for the beauty and antiquity of their bindings, but also for the fragmentary manuscripts they preserve. Two examples in the collection are a 1575 edition of the Italian jurist Alessandro Tartagni's commentary on the Corpus juris civilis (the collection of Roman law received during the Middle Ages, which forms the basis of modern civil laws), and an influential Scottish collection of medieval laws and customs, the Regiam maiestatem Scotiae (1613).

Tartagni (1424-1477) was a legal standout of his day, a widely renowned, semi-itinerant jurist sometimes called the 'doctor of truth' or the 'golden doctor.' He taught canon and Roman law - as the latter was adapted to early Renaissance Italian life - to students who filled the cities as lawyers, diplomats, teachers and bureaucrats. Tartagni himself received doctorates from Bologna, the first and most famous medieval law school, and taught at Pavia, Ferrara, Padua, and Bologna, where he died. Each of our volumes of Tartagni's four-volume commentary on Roman law is covered in vellum (or animal skin) leaves from 13th-century manuscripts.  

At left is a detail from the cover of Tartagni's commentary on the middle books of Justinian's Digest of Roman law, known as the Infortiatum. Strikingly, the pictured manuscript leaf also includes an early commentary on the Digest. The leaf shows a section of book 19 of the Digest, on locatio conductio, or contracts for leasing goods and hiring services. The Roman legal text is in black, with red and blue initial letters to focus the reader's eye. A surrounding marginal gloss - a kind of abbreviated commentary - can be seen in a fainter brown ink. Just as Tartagni was commenting on Roman law in his volumes, a medieval scribe was filling the margins of his manuscript with short explanations of the same texts. A small history of evolving thought and pedagogy can thus be seen at a glance; all the more so as 16th-century editors then added footnotes to Tartagni's commentary. 

The Regiam maiestatem Scotiae is equally interesting, even if the connection between the text and the covering manuscript leaf is less clear. Grand in scope, the Regiam maiestatem was composed in Scotland in the 14th century and includes parts of Glanvill's medieval Treatise on the Laws and Customs of England, as well as elements of Roman and canon law, and ancient Scottish laws. Our edition was published in London, four years after the first edition compiled by John Skene was published in Edinburgh.

The manuscript that covers our Regiam maiestatem, at right, is a late 13th- or 14th-century antiphonal (or antiphonary), a liturgical book used for chanting the divine office in choir. It was tailored for use by monks, and needed to be large enough to be read by a small group. The particular leaf that covers the front and back of our volume is very similar to this leaf online (and the music can be sung with the aid of modern notation). Notably ours features a more intricate decorated initial letter "E." Monastic liturgical books were not much in demand in early modern Protestant Scotland, which may help explain its repurposed use here. Yet its aesthetics were not lost on an early modern binder, who positioned the beautiful "E" across the spine, where it would be seen more easily.  

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections    


Monday, April 3, 2017

Wednesday, April 5: Rare Books Open House

All are invited to the Riesenfeld Center's monthly rare books open house, this Wednesday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.! Come out to enjoy free snacks and drinks, and see more treasures from the Library's rare books and special collections - including gems of early Minnesota law!

Rare Books Open House

When: Wednesday, April 5, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
Where: Riesenfeld Rare Books Center (N30, on the sub-plaza past Sullivan Cafe).
What: Treasures from the rare books and special collections, and free snacks and drinks.