Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Law's Picture Books – Two Exhibitions and Some Online Videos

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Two Exhibitions of Law's Picture Books.

"Most people would not look for illustrations in law books." So begins the description of two exhibitions curated by the Yale Law Library in one of the greater understatements you will hear. The exhibitions are designed to disprove the underlying assumptions behind that quote. There is one exhibition in New York, another in New Haven, and for those not close to either, there are some accompanying videos that can be viewed online.

 

Most people expect books about the law to be boring texts filled with legalese and certainly many are. A connection between artistic expression, the feelings and emotions they elicit, with the cold, brutal logic of the law seems a contradiction. However, Michael Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Yale Law School Library, has put together a collection of law books that feature illustrations. Many are feats of artistic expression, while others are more technical in nature, some even comic. There are over a thousand items in the collection, compiled over the past decade, some of which are displayed in the exhibitions. The New York City exhibit, Law's Picture Books, "features 140 books and manuscripts containing a surprising and beguiling range of images that symbolize, describe, teach, argue, or criticize the law." The companion exhibition in New Haven, Around the World With Law's Picture Books, "showcases illustrated law books from fifteen countries on six continents in ten different languages."

 

Some illustrations can be soaring art. Frontispiece images were often depictions of Lady Justice, her balancing scales, or even more dramatic allegorical pictures of heavenly creatures bringing truth and justice for all. Deeper into the text, images were more likely to illustrate a particular facet of the law. Others feature cartoon characters, often used to satirize the law. After all, everyone knows what the law is.

 

The exhibition of Law's Picture Books is being hosted at the Grolier Club in New York and runs from now through November 18. Hours are 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday. There is no charge. The Grolier is located at 47 East 60th Street. The exhibition is curated by Michael Widener and Mark S. Weiner, filmmaker and professor on leave from Rutgers University.

 

Around the World with Law's Picture Books is on exhibit at the Yale Law Library in New Haven through December 15. It is curated by Michael Widener and Emma Molina Widener.

 

Five videos by Mark Weiner are shown on a big screen at the New York City exhibition. However, if you can't make it to New York, you can view them at home through the following link: worldsoflaw.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/laws-picture-books-on-video-with-open-captions-for-the-deaf/

 

Those involved in the book trade, either as booksellers or collectors, even those without a particular interest in the law, will find this particular video of much interest. It is Mr. Widener's trip to the annual ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair. It's a chance to see the fair and the interactions between an institutional buyer and numerous of the dealers from around the world with which he meets. vimeo.com/195856227

 

There is also a book available entitled Law's Picture Books: The Yale Law Library Collection, by Michael Widener and Mark S. Weiner. It is filled with information about illustrations in law books, and, of course, it is highly illustrated itself, with 166 color illustrations. For more information, see the review elsewhere in this month's issue of Rare Book Monthly.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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