Go to the U of M home page

Pages

Thursday, September 22, 2022

New Exhibits Open House: Law Books and the History of Legal Education

All are invited to an open house for two new Law Library exhibits:
 

When: Wednesday, September 28, from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Where: Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center (N30, Subplaza level).
 
Cookies, brownies, bagged snacks and drinks will be available.
 
"Tools of the Profession" explores the history of legal education through the literature that has profoundly shaped it. From statute books to casebooks, and from treatises to dictionaries, legal literature has developed not only to record the law and aid professionals in practice, but to guide students from the earliest stages of study. The exhibit also showcases the reciprocal nature of legal literature and legal education, through a trove of historical books illustrating transformative developments in legal education over several centuries.
  
The accompanying exhibit, “Law Books in Legal Education at Minnesota,” drawn from the Law Library’s rich archives, highlights coursebooks, lectures, exam prep material, and early exams that shed light on the history of legal education at Minnesota. Selections from our growing student notebook collection reveal how students engaged with the law through a rigorous, dynamic education.

The exhibits were curated by Ryan Greenwood, Pat Graybill, and Lily Eisenthal.
 

 


 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Tuesday, September 20: Celebrate Constitution Day!

Come out and celebrate Constitution Day in the Law Library lobby!  
 
Stop by and grab donuts and coffee on September 20, and pick up a crossword puzzle about the US Constitution for prizes. 
 
Don't forget to take a selfie with James Madison!
 
When: Tuesday, September 20, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Where: Law Library Lobby
What: Donuts, Coffee, and Prizes! 
 

 
 
 



Friday, September 9, 2022

New Library Exhibits: Law Books and the History of Legal Education

The Law Library is pleased to announce two new exhibits open in the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center:
 
"Tools of the Profession: Law Books and the History of Legal Education" 
 
and 

"Law Books in Legal Education at Minnesota"

The history of legal education is known above all through the literature of the law. Imbued by the spirit of practice, the training necessary to help students become successful attorneys has for centuries depended on a diversity of texts. From statute books to casebooks, and from famous treatises to dictionaries, legal literature has developed not only to record the law and aid professionals in practice, but to guide students from their earliest studies. 

In England, students played a role in copying and distributing early collections of pleadings and writs, and keenly studied and annotated case law. Early treatises were based
 partly on class lectures. Lawyers, particularly from the early modern period onward, authored additional tools aimed at students, from exam prep guides to advice books. In the age of print, an expanding publishing market produced summaries and epitomes of the law for self-directed education.

In nineteenth-century America, professionals created a new literature, distinguished from its English origins, intended for young students as much as practitioners. Even the famed “revolution” in American legal education, still with us today, is first seen in a law book: Christopher Columbus Langdell’s 1871 casebook on contracts imposed an innovative method of instruction on the faculty and students who used it. 
 
An accompanying exhibit, “Law Books in Legal Education at Minnesota,” showcases literature that has trained Law School students from the earliest days of our institution. Based in the Law School’s rich archives, the exhibit centers around historical coursebooks, lectures, exam prep material, student notebooks, and exams, casting light on legal education at Minnesota. Selections from the Law School’s growing student notebook collection, in particular, reveal how students engaged with the law and a dynamic education.

“Tools of the Profession: Law Books and the History of Legal Education,” and
“Law Books in Legal Education at Minnesota,”  invites visitors to peruse the history of legal education through a diverse literature that reveals its contours.
 
The exhibits were curated by Ryan Greenwood, Pat Graybill and Lily Eisenthal. For more information or to arrange a tour, please contact Ryan Greenwood (rgreenwo@umn.edu; 612-625-7323). 
 

 


Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Visit from Professor Bruno Debaenst

This past spring, Professor Bruno Debaenst was the visiting professor to Minnesota from the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University. Professor Debaenst is an expert in legal history, whose scholarship and interests range widely and include employment, labor and insurance law, international legal organizations and the modern welfare state, Swedish legal history, and early and modern Belgian legal history, among other subjects. At the Law School, he taught an excellent class on historical trials in comparative perspective. 

Professor Debaenst was the most recent faculty visitor as part of a Minnesota-Uppsala exchange program that dates back to the fall semester of 1982. The program has been strengthened since then, sending numerous faculty members of the respective law schools back and forth for enriching teaching and study across the Atlantic. The kindred cultural and academic relationship has opened many doors for exchange students from the two universities, some of whom have stayed, lived and thrived in the US and Sweden.   

During the semester, Bruno took the time to visit the Riesenfeld Center and rare books collection, and became a good friend in the process. While here he found several items of particular interest. One was a remarkable work by Flemish jurist Joost de Damhoudere (1507-81), whose Latin title is Praxis Rerum Criminalium. First published in 1554 and reprinted many times after, it is the most extensively and vividly illustrated law book of the 16th century, a compendium of Flemish-Roman criminal law that depicts in more than 50 woodcuts the wide range of crimes it discusses. 

The book is one that had caught our eye also, and was featured in an exhibit that was mounted two years ago. Of the two copies of the work in our rare books collection, one we acquired was formerly owned by the great German jurist and legal historian Hermann Kantorowicz. That copy is enhanced by unique and rich student annotations - probably from a German student contemporary to the book's publication - and the book was perhaps partly purchased or given to Professor Kantorowicz for that reason.   

In discussing the book with me, Bruno pointed out the potential that it had for further research. Among other interesting perspectives on the work is that of plagiarism. In fact, Joost de Damhoudere plagiarized his magnum opus from Philips Wielant, an earlier jurist and public official who also served as a mayor of the Liberty of Bruges. Why Damhoudere chose not to acknowledge his principal source is a mystery. Although the 16th century placed no modern legal or perhaps cultural prohibitions on plagiarism, it seems there were some basic rules of ethics, which Damhoudere must have been aware that he violated. In addition, other questions were raised: one was the extent of the work's reliance on an existing Roman law tradition vs. its reflection of contemporary Flemish law. Other questions involve the woodcut depictions, the complex publication history of the book, and the fascinating topics of criminal law that are covered (some seem included only to highlight a particular sensationalistic woodcut). In all, the book raises many more questions than an ordinary (even historical) law book typically does.

In our second copy of the book, the rich annotations also reveal information about the student who took notes in it. Apparently a humanist by inclination, the student was fond of citing Latin classics and appended quotes in Greek. The text itself became an imaginative space for the student's heavy multi-colored pen work, with interlinear and marginal notes, pointers and labeling. 

Likewise for us, thinking about the book centuries later, it provides a similar space for discussion and thought, and the elaboration of new approaches to the material. It is a wonderful conversation piece, ripe for further research.   

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

New Acquisitions: Clarence Darrow's Will, Letters, and Books

The Law Library holds the most extensive collection of letters written by and to the legendary American trial attorney, Clarence Darrow (1858-1937). The great majority of the Library's collection was acquired in 2004 under the guidance of Joan S. Howland, the Roger F. Noreen Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Information & Technology. The major acquisition represented the Law Library’s millionth-volume milestone and is a centerpiece of the collections at the Riesenfeld Center.
 
The Darrow collection continues to grow, today comprising more than 1,000 letters, and now includes books, speeches, debates, trial briefs and transcripts, and other material by and about Darrow and his extraordinary career. In 2011, the Library also released an award-winning digital research site under the direction of Associate Law Library Director, Michael Hannon ('98), to make available extensive material related to Darrow's career, his letters, and his major cases.   

Often considered America’s greatest trial lawyer, Darrow remains a symbol of consummate courtroom skill. Over his long career, Darrow built his legacy on an unmatched record in capital cases, and represented clients at several “trials of the century,” most notably the Scopes “Monkey” trial (1925), and the Leopold and Loeb murder trial (1924). As a labor lawyer in his early career, Darrow often defended controversial figures and thrust himself, sometimes unwillingly, into the national spotlight. In his later career, Darrow was recognized as the nation's leading criminal defense attorney, aiding otherwise hopeless defendants in the face of almost impossible odds. When involved in a case at the trial stage, Darrow never lost a client to the death penalty. 

Outside the courtroom, Darrow became a famous controversialist and a truly original iconoclast. His contrarian views, particularly in the 1920s during the height of his activity, challenged popular assumptions and taboos, adding greatly to his celebrity. His career and trials have been the subject of numerous novels, biographies, and movies. Darrow has captured the popular imagination like few other lawyers in America or elsewhere. 
 
The Riesenfeld Center has recently acquired a series of new items, including letters, related to Darrow's life and career. Fifteen letters between Darrow and Charles J. Dutton (1888-1964) document a previously-unknown friendship between Darrow and a mystery novelist and Unitarian minister. The two shared views on crime and Darrow several times lectured to Dutton's congregation in Des Moines. Another letter, to an associate in San Antonio, reveals how Darrow mixed client visits with opportunities to speak publicly on issues close to his heart, sometimes related to cases he was trying. A letter to his friend Forrest Black, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, shows Darrow's favorable comment on Black’s book manuscript, Ill-Starred Prohibition Cases: A Study in Judicial Pathology (1931), for which Darrow wrote a preface. 

In another newly-acquired letter Darrow writes to his co-counsel, John Wourms, as Darrow argued before the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus in
Pettibone v. Nichols (1906). The petition sought the release of murder suspects kidnapped and transported across state lines to face indictment in a notorious case. Several personal letters from Darrow to his second wife, Ruby, have also come into the collection, and reflect on their long and affectionate relationship.  

The Library this past year also received by donation Darrow’s will from 1911, during a turbulent period in his life. The will was generously donated by Henry Mangels, a nephew of the pathbreaking lawyer, Nellie Carlin (1869–1948), who served as a witness to the will. Carlin worked in Darrow’s office and later became the second President of the Women's Bar Association of Illinois and Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney.

Beyond this material, the Library has very recently acquired an important and revealing documentary collection related to Ruby Darrow's estate. The trove relates to Ruby's estate in her later years, and that of her family member William Hamerstrom, whose estate planning involved Ruby. The documents and legal correspondence shed light on Ruby's life and include revealing biographical facts, among which were negotiations for the film rights to a movie about Ruby and Clarence's life, and the circumstances of Ruby's later years, after Clarence passed away in 1938. With this collection also came several letters from Ruby to Clarence, and signed and inscribed copies of Darrow's autobiography, The Story of My Life.  

These new acquisition will enrich our knowledge of Darrow’s career, causes, family, and associates, and provide valuable new resources for study.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections




Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Rare Study Guides (and Good Luck on Finals)!

Legal study guides have a long history. An
English study guide from 1600, penned by the lawyer William Fulbecke (1560-c.1603), includes advice on when and how to study (and what kind of student would succeed). Some advice is humorous, while a final chapter gets down to business, with a schema of property law based on Thomas Littleton's famous Tenures and basic points from English common law. Legal study guides proliferated in 18th-century England, and some helped to meet a need for self-guided study. It was also a period of decline in rigorous legal education at the traditional Inns of Court. 

A more eccentric study guide, probably the most famous of its genre, is a mnemonic aid devised by Johannes Buno (1617-97) for use with the complex books of Roman law taught in continental law schools. The difficulty in learning Buno's system, and the improbability that it aided much in studying Roman law, should have guaranteed the work a single published edition. But the attractive book must have had a good curiosity value, as it does today. It went through three editions in a short period (1672-74); the Law Library holds a copy of the rare first edition, once held by the great jurist Hermann Kantorowicz.

Buno's illustrated system associated the chapter titles of Roman law with images meant to help students remember their respective subject matter. He keyed each numbered title to  corresponding alphabetical letters (1=A, etc.), and chose an image or scene to represent them. The first title of Justinian's Institutes, for example, is on "Justice and Law" (De Justitia et Jure), for which Buno chose an eagle (A=Aquila, in Latin, pictured above), with scales of justice, a crown and book. For the second chapter, Buno opted for (bearded) oxen, corresponding to the topics of "Natural Law, Civil Law and the Law of Nations," since natural law (at least!) applies to all animals. Other images are stranger, and the system became more convoluted when Buno ran out of letters. Some images are certainly clever or humorous, but on balance Buno's work must have befuddled students as much as it enlightened them. That was the opinion at least of a later law professor and legal bibliophile, Karl Ferdinand Hommel (1722-81), who castigated the work in his Litteratura Iuris, calling some of the depictions "inept" and "foolish." 
                      
Best wishes to all our students, from the Law Library and Riesenfeld Center, on this year's final exams. We hope that you have close at hand all the right tools, including books, notes, and outlines (even mnemonics), for good success.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections



Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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

Come out and celebrate Clarence Darrow's birthday with the Law Library on April 18th!  

Visit the Law Library lobby and pick up donuts, coffee, and snacks.  In addition, take a quiz about the great American trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, and learn more about his life and career.  (The Law Library holds the preeminent national collection of Darrow's letters, speeches and writings in its Riesenfeld Center.)  

Finally, don't forget to take a selfie with Clarence!  

When: Monday, April 18, 11 a.m - 1 p.m.
Where: Law Library Lobby
What: Donuts, coffee, snacks, and a quiz!