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Monday, February 10, 2020

Wednesday, Feb. 12: Spring Exhibits Open House!

Come out to an open house for our new exhibits in the Riesenfeld Rare Books Center this Wednesday, February 12, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.:

Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center

and

‘Böcker Har Sina Öden’ (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center

Open House: Wednesday, February 12, 2020
                         12 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
                         Riesenfeld Rare Books Center (N30, Sub-plaza)

                         Cookies, snacks and refreshments served.


What makes a rare book valuable?  What makes it into a treasure?  Two new exhibits featuring treasures from the Riesenfeld Center and treasures from the Center's rare Swedish law collection explore these questions.

The history of books is not only a history of more and less significant texts, or even more and less valuable editions. It is also a history of printers and engravers, of book binders and former owners, who have shaped the book as a historical object that is worthy of study. These individuals have left their marks on books, over time adding to and even changing our understanding of the texts themselves. It is no surprise, then, that the unique physical forms in which we find these texts can make individual copies into significant and singular treasures.

The Riesenfeld Center's current exhibits feature treasures that are made so by individual owners and their annotations, by beautiful illustrations, bindings and other physical features that make this material unique and valuable.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections



Thursday, February 6, 2020

Spring Exhibits Reception and New Donation

We recently held an opening reception for faculty and special guests in the Riesenfeld Center, to celebrate our new spring exhibits. The new exhibits highlight treasures in our collections, with a focus on items that have special value as historical objects worthy of study. The first exhibit, "Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center," showcases material from across our rich collections. The second exhibit, "'Böcker Har Sina Öden' (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center," highlights items in our rare Swedish collection. The latter exhibit is curated by Professor Eric Bylander, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Law, Uppsala University. Professor Bylander and Professor Marie Linton, the Deputy Head of the Department of Law, Uppsala University, traveled from Sweden to attend the opening reception. At the reception, Eric discussed the rare Swedish law exhibit, and Law School Dean Garry Jenkins, Associate Dean Joan Howland, and I also made remarks. For more about the exhibits, please see a recent blog post about them.


At a dinner hosted by Professors Bylander and Linton, Eric presented the Law Library with a terrific Swedish law book for donation to our collections. We are very grateful for the new acquisition. The book, Kongl. Stadgar, Förordningar, Bref och Resolutioner, ifrån åhr 1528, in til 1701 (Stockholm, 1706), is a collection of Swedish statutes, regulations, and other laws promulgated between 1528 and 1701. It is rare in North America and Europe, with only a few copies available in libraries, and also beautiful, featuring several magnificent engravings. 

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

New Library Exhibits: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Center's Collections

The Law Library and Riesenfeld Center are pleased to announce the opening of two new exhibits in the Riesenfeld Center:


Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center

and

‘Böcker Har Sina Öden’ (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center

The history of books is not only a history of more and less significant texts, or even more and less valuable editions. It is also a history of printers and engravers, of book binders and former owners, who have shaped the book as a historical object that is worthy of study. These individuals have left their marks on books, over time adding to and even changing our understanding of the texts themselves. It is no surprise, then, that the unique physical forms in which we find these texts can make individual copies into significant and singular treasures.

“Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center,” invites viewers to consider the books, letters, 
and other documents on display as important and often unique witnesses to their contemporary history. From books whose bindings reflect the religious milieu of their owners, to annotations that capture a famous owner’s views on political affairs, these items are rare and valuable due in part to the unique stories they can tell us about the past. The descriptions in the exhibit tell some of these stories in outline, suggesting the importance of an illustration, or of a poem quoted by a sixteenth-century student. They indicate that each volume, each letter and document, can reveal a world of historical information not captured anywhere else, to those who study them.


"'Böcker Har Sina Öden' (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center," meditates on the same theme through the prism of our Swedish law collection. In this exhibit, Professor Eric Bylander, Distinguished University Professor in the Faculty of Law, Uppsala University, describes Swedish law books that he has chosen for their uniqueness as historical artifacts. In particular, he has identified notable Swedish owners of the volumes, as well as physical features that draw attention to the richness of these treasured books and the stories they can evoke. As Professor Bylander shows, the books in our Swedish collection have had their various destinies – they have gained unique significance through time, and have finally found a home in Minnesota.   

“Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center,” is curated by Ryan Greenwood, Ian Moret, and Pat Graybill.  

"'Böcker Har Sina Öden' (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center," is curated by Professor Eric Bylander, Department of Law, Uppsala University.

The exhibits will be open through the summer at the Riesenfeld Center. Please contact Ryan Greenwood (rgreenwo@umn.edu; 612-625-7323) for more information or directions.

    - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections



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