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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