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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

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