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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Wednesday, October 6: Rare Books Open House!

Come out to the Riesenfeld Center's first rare books open house of the semester, this Wednesday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.!

Enjoy snacks and drinks, and see new and favorite treasures from the library's rare books and special collections:

When: Wednesday, October 6, 12 p.m - 3 p.m.
Where: Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center (Rm. N30 on the Subplaza past N20).
What: Rare books, snacks and refreshments!











Thursday, September 23, 2021

New Exhibit Open House: Tuesday, Sept. 28

All are invited to an open house for a special new Law Library exhibit, which commemorates and celebrates the life and career of Walter F. Mondale:


When: Tuesday, 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. 

Walter Mondale ('56) (1928-2021) left an indelible legacy on the national political landscape. His achievements in Congress, the White House, and in Minnesota are a testament to his great skill, courage, and integrity. The Vice President’s enduring contributions were driven by his vision for a country bound by its commitments to fairness, justice, and opportunity. Mondale’s passing this year marked the loss of a great friend, particularly for the Law School’s wide community. Though we grieve his death, we also commemorate his outstanding life of leadership and service.
 
Through photographs, documents, and quotations, the Law Library’s new exhibit traces the Vice President’s career from his formative years in Minnesota to his service as a U.S. Senator, Vice President of the United States, and as an elder statesman. The exhibit also highlights the Vice President's close relationship with the Law School whose building bears his name. For more than sixty years, Mondale's deep involvement in the life of the Law School reflected his generous commitment to his alma mater, rooted in an unshakeable faith in education as the path to a better society. In the same spirit, the current library exhibit honors Walter Mondale’s monumental career and legacy. 

For more about the exhibit, please see this link.






Wednesday, September 22, 2021

New Library Exhibit: "Commemorating Walter F. Mondale ('56) (1928–2021): A Lasting Legacy"

The Law Library announces a special new exhibit to commemorate  the life and career of Walter F. Mondale, now open in the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center:

"Commemorating Walter F. Mondale ('56) (1928–2021): A Lasting Legacy" 

Walter Mondale ('56) (1928-2021) left an indelible legacy on the American political landscape. His achievements in Congress, the White House, and in Minnesota are a testament to his great skill, courage, and integrity. The Vice President’s enduring contributions were driven by his vision for a country bound by its commitments to fairness, justice, and opportunity. Mondale’s passing this year marked the loss of a great friend, particularly for the Law School’s wide community. Though we grieve his death, we also commemorate his outstanding life of leadership and service.
 
Through photographs, documents, and quotations, the Law Library’s new exhibit traces the Vice President’s career from his formative years in Minnesota to his service as a U.S. Senator, Vice President of the United States, and as an elder statesman. The exhibit also highlights the Vice President's close relationship with the Law School whose building bears his name. For more than sixty years, Mondale's deep involvement in the life of the Law School reflected his generous commitment to his alma mater, rooted in an unshakeable faith in education as the path to a better society. In the same spirit, the current library exhibit honors Walter Mondale’s monumental career and legacy. 

By any measure, Mondale’s career was extraordinary. He was appointed Minnesota Attorney General in 1960, the youngest in the country. In 1964, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hubert Humphrey and went on to serve twelve years in Congress. In the Senate, Mondale’s legislative efforts helped to usher in a new
Democratic party, focused among other issues on civil rights, consumer rights, education, the environment, and government accountability. As Jimmy Carter’s vice president, from 1977 to 1980, Mondale reshaped the role of the office, helping to guide foreign and domestic policy as perhaps no other vice president before him.
 
Although his 1984 bid for the presidency was unsuccessful, Mondale’s choice of Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate was historic, marking the first time that a woman ran as a major party nominee for vice president. Mondale was later appointed by President Clinton as ambassador to Japan, and remained active in the Democratic party throughout his life. For more than sixty years, Walter Mondale’s deep commitment to the Law School added another bright flame to his legacy. He served as an advisor to the Law School and frequently visited, spoke, and lectured here. In part for those deep and continuing ties, the Law School building was rededicated in his honor in 2001. His personal warmth, care, and involvement at the Law School made him one of its greatest friends and partners. 

For more information about the exhibit, or to schedule a tour, please contact Ryan Greenwood (rgreenwo@umn.edu; 612-625-7323). For more information about Walter Mondale's distinguished Senate career, please see the Library's award-winning digital site. For more about the Law School building, Walter F. Mondale Hall, please see this digital exhibit. For more on Mondale's career and legacy, please see the Law School's spring tribute.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections



 




Sunday, September 12, 2021

Celebrate Constitution Day: Wednesday, Sept. 15!

Come out and celebrate Constitution Day in the Law Library!  Stop in the Library Lobby on Wednesday, September 15, for donuts and coffee, and fill out a crossword puzzle about the US Constitution for prizes!  (Bonus: take a selfie with James Madison.)

When: Wednesday, September 15, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Where: Law Library Lobby
What: Donuts, Coffee and a Crossword Contest for Prizes! 




Thursday, September 2, 2021

Rare Books Collection: American Classics

Among featured collections, the Riesenfeld Center holds an outstanding range of early American law. Many of these are statutory laws that open a window onto early American society. Due to the contemporary need for legislation, statutory law makes up the great bulk of colonial American law. Many other law books were English imports to America until the later 18th century. The first native case reporter, Ephraim Kirby, did not publish his collection of Connecticut cases until 1789. General commentaries did not fare much better: Blackstone's influential Commentaries were available in the colonies before the Revolution in English and American editions, but American commentaries did not become a genre of publication until the early 19th century. The narrower American legal treatise came of age in the same period. Practice guides and form books, at least, which offered to lay practitioners of the law everything from contract templates, to selections of statute and common law organized by subject, were available from the earlier 18th century, in response to practical needs.

A few early American law books also carried some political significance. One notable example, English Liberties, was produced in 1721 in Boston by the older brother of Ben Franklin, as an updated re-print of a 1680 English work by Henry Care. It collects key English statutes, with a summary of what can be called English constitutional law, and features some elements of a legal practice guide. The Boston edition of English Liberties represented a defense of the colonists' "English rights" against a British Parliament intent upon revoking colonial charters; it was reprinted again in 1774, on the eve of the American Revolution. 

Political dispute and dissent eventually became widespread in the colonies, though books were not the best vehicle for them. Cheap newspapers and pamphlets were circulated more quickly to a larger audience. As the colonists' grievances against the English Parliament and Crown became acute, in the 1760s and early 1770s, newspapers shaped and carried public opinion. Popular letters first printed in newspapers might also be reprinted later. An example is John Dickinson's Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, printed as a series of letters in newspapers from late 1767 to early 1768, and then in collected editions. An important figure of the Revolutionary period, Dickinson gained a wide public hearing through his opposition to new British tax schemes in the Townshend Acts (1767), which he argued were threats to the colonists' liberty and rights. 

The annual publication with perhaps the largest public following was Poor Richard's Almanac, which Ben Franklin and his friends sometimes also turned to political purposes. With details on astrology, astronomy, agriculture and current affairs, the almanac sold thousands of copies each year and made Franklin a well-to-do Philadelphian. The edition from 1765 is one with a legal and political dimension, since it included the text of the new Stamp Act (1765). As pseudonymous editor Richard Saunders, Franklin included the act as "most necessary" for Americans to read. When Franklin heard of the colonists' fiery denunciations of it, in early 1766, he was resident in London on business for Pennsylvania. He was granted a Parliamentary hearing and sided with his countrymen. Repeal of the act came soon after and gave lasting credence to Franklin's diplomatic and political abilities, which he would turn to good account in the following years.

Editions of these classics form part of the Center's early American collection - and there is much more to explore.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections    



      
     

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Rare Book School: "Law Books: History and Connoisseurship"

Rare Book School in Virginia is an excellent place to learn about the history of the book in an immersive environment. It offers week-long courses on a wide variety of topics in book history and bibliography, digital humanities, and more. One of these courses, "Law Books: History and Connoisseurship," is taught by Mike Widener, recently retired as rare books librarian at Yale Law Library. At the beginning of August, we co-taught the course material, similar to the class we taught in 2018. This year the course was taught on Zoom due to the pandemic. Although the course is usually hands-on, allowing students to interact with physical copies of books and bibliographies, document cameras have now made the online experience a pretty reasonable facsimile of the "real" thing.

The course covered the history of printed law books, with a focus on America and Europe, and types of legal publications from around 1500 to 1900. At center was always the idea of book as artifact: an object that bears with it the history of its use and ownership, which forms an integral part of the object's identity, value, and interest to a collector. Featured during the week were books with peculiar (and elegant) bindings, associations with notable owners, illustrations, annotations, and other features that enhance the items' interest. Beyond books, broadsides, letters, pamphlets, notebooks and manuscript material were discussed, along with methods to preserve and present these artifacts.

It was a very enjoyable week together with the class. We discussed and shared experiences and questions that affected all of us. At the course's conclusion, participants presented a special law collection they were developing or would develop, based partly on input from the course and classmates. As Mike often reminds, it's not the monetary value of a collection that makes it worthwhile, but rather its coherence, interest, novelty and the passion that the collector brings to it.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

New Darrow Letters Available Online

The Riesenfeld Center's Darrow Collection includes more than 1,000 letters to and from Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), the legendary American trial attorney. The vast majority of letters have been digitized and are searchable as part of the Clarence Darrow Digital Collection, which also includes a rich trove of documents and analysis related to Darrow's most prominent cases, written and gathered by Professor Michael Hannon. Recently we've added 30 new and transcribed Clarence and Ruby Darrow letters to the digital site. The diverse letters relate to Darrow's legal and political views, publications, speaking engagements, friends, and family.

Among highlights are a 3-page letter to Maria Sweet Smith responding to Sweet Smith's proposal for a campaign against the death penalty. At the time, in 1930, Darrow was president of the American League to Abolish Capital Punishment. In the letter, Darrow firmly rejects the plan, which was premised on economic benefits expected from a predicted drop in crime. Darrow’s response is testimony to his humanist philosophy. For him, crime was caused by larger social forces and the abolition of the death penalty had to be based in compassion. Another reply is evidence of Darrow's support for euthanasia. Several others, like this, detail his deep opposition to the Volstead Act and Prohibition, which Darrow lectured on and debated about frequently in the 1920s. 

Other letters touch on debates and lectures, potential clients and book contracts, and on Darrow's large network of friends. Darrow's wife Ruby has several notable letters that are also now available. In one, Ruby reflects on Irving Stone's upcoming biography of her husband, Clarence Darrow for the Defense, completed three years after Darrow's death. The letter reveals Ruby's desire to protect her husband's legacy and to be credited appropriately in what became a widely-read and standard biography of Darrow.

The handwritten letters in the batch were expertly transcribed by Special Collections Assistant Ian Moret.  Many thanks are due to Ian for his wonderful work; and many thanks for all of his terrific work at the Riesenfeld Center in the past five years.  Though he is now moving on, his excellent contributions to the Darrow collection, to our physical and digital exhibits, and to the archives, in particular, will live on.     

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections