Book Restored in Honour of Professor Margaret Somerville

In honour of Professor Somerville’s work and achievements, the Faculty of Law of McGill University has restored the 1773 edition of An Interesting Appendix to Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. This volume is part of the Rare Book collection of the Nahum Gelber Law Library, and its record will carry in perpetuity a notice in tribute to Professor Somerville on behalf of McGill University.img_0014

An interesting appendix to Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England. Philadelphia: Printed for the subscribers, by Robert Bell, 1773. This book is a collection of correspondence between William Blackstone, Joseph Priestley, and Philip Furneaux published as a reaction to the fourth volume of his Commentaries on the Laws of England, where Blackstone argued in support the suspension of legal penalties against nonconformists, and that essentially nonconformity remained a crime. The correspondence powerfully reveals and illustrates the philosophical, religious, and ethical tensions in the 18th century England. Priestley criticised Blackstone’s positions in the Commentaries relative to offences against the doctrine of the Established Church, while Furneaux in his letters on his Exposition of the Toleration Act offered powerful statement moral arguments against enforcing religious truths by civil penalties. After this public exchange of opinions, Blackstone made alterations to the subsequent editions of his Commentaries: he rephrased some offending passages, moderated his language in others, and corrected the errors and inaccuracies that had been pointed out by his correspondents.

img_0015Joseph Priestley (1733 – 1804) was English clergyman, political theorist, and physical scientist whose work contributed to advances in liberal political and religious thought and in experimental chemistry. He is best remembered today for his contribution to the chemistry of gases, while during his time day he was known also as a vigorous advocate of unitarianism and of liberal reform of government, education, and theology. Philip Furneaux (1726–1783) was an English independent minister, known for his work on behalf of the rights of nonconformists.

Beauty of Book Covers

We are not supposed to judge the books by their covers, but we cannot help admiring their beauty and the skills and quality of the workmanship of the book binders who created them hundreds of years ago. Book covers are an intrinsic part of the readers’ experience that can be used by the book producers or book owners to enhance the appeal or the importance of their contents, to market the book to a specific category of readers, or to produce a desired impression on visitors browsing the contents of a private library. These are some stunning examples from the Law Library’s rare books collections:

Corpus juris civilis (1612) in wooden boards, brown embossed calf leather, with fragments of clasps and metal corner-pieces.

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Collection of 16th century pamphlets bound in vellum manuscript waste

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Volumen parvum (Corpus juris civilis) (1588) in embossed pigskin

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Manuscript Institutions au droit françois (1715) in 18th century marbled paper

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Trois livres du domaine de la Couronne de France (1613) in brown calf with gold ornaments

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Praxis criminalis (1678) in limp vellum

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Liber qvintvs receptarvm sententiarvm integer (1604) in contemporary vellum with embossed ornaments and red leather label on the spine

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Les six livres de la republique de I. Bodin, soft leather covers embossed with fleurs-de-lys, coats of arms of France, Polland, and Henry III

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Controversiarum juris libri tredecim (1678) in contemporary vellum with embossed ornaments

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Enchiridion: ov Brief recveil du droict escript, gardé et observé ov abrogé en France (1606) in brown calf with gold ornaments

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New acquisition: Vocabvlarivm ivrisprvdentiae romanae (1718)

 vocab 3 3 We are happy to welcome a new addition to our Wainwright Collection: Vocabvlarivm ivrisprvdentiae romanae. It is a wonderful example of an early eighteenth century hand-written legal vademecum. The dictionary is a quick and simple reference guide to the principle terms and concepts of Roman civil law. It is written in fine hand, arranged alphabetically, and has foldable margins to facilitate the marking of places. The book covers all the principle aspects of civil law from inheritances and property rights through to contracts and martial law. It includes also a section on Juris primordia, on the structure and development of the Corpus Iuris Civilis. vocabThis dictionary was compiled by a 18th century lawyer, possibly a member of the Anyot family as it has a note on the front paste-down “dominus Anyot eques, 1718.” It is known that members of this Huguenot family were active as doctors, lawyers, and watchmakers in the later part of the seventeenth century in France, but after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many of them left France to move to England. The dictionary is a beautiful example of a “18th century pocket reference book” bound in contemporary calf, with gilt spine decorated with raised bands. It is in a well-preserved condition with just some moderate rubbing to extremities, chipping to spine ends, and somewhat worn corners.vocab 2

New Additions to our Digitised Collection

  • The Law Library continues to work on enlarging our collection of digitised books from our rare and special collections. These are some latest additions that eloquently illustrate the breadth and depth of our collections:
  • The compleate copy-holder, wherein is contained a learned discourse of the antiquity and nature of manors and copy-holds … Necessary, both for the Lord and Tenant: Together, with the form of keeping a Copy-hold Court and Court-Baron / Edward Coke, 1644.StreamGate3 7

Do not be deceived by the title of this book authored by nobody else but famous, Sir Edward Coke (1552 – 1634). StreamGate3 9It has nothing to do with copies as we understand them now. According to Britannica, “copyhold, in English law, a form of landholding defined as a ‘holding at the will of the lord according to the custom of the manor.’ Its origin is found in the occupation by villeins, or nonfreemen, of portions of land belonging to the manor of the feudal lord. In 1926 all copyhold land became freehold land, though the lords of manors retained mineral and sporting rights.” Until 1926, manors themselves were freehold property, and were bought and sold between major landowners, while smaller landholdings within manors were held by copyhold tenure, while the land was technically owned by the Lord of the Manor. StreamGate3 5The term ‘copyhold’ originates from the custom when the official record of the copyhold on landholding was written up in the manorial court rolls and an official copy of the court roll entry was made for the tenant as their proof of title. This particular copy is especially interesting because printers’ waste (unused pages printed for other book) have been used as end papers.

  • Collection of legal documents relating to a lawsuit by Francis Rybot against Pierre DuCalvet, in the Court of Common Pleas, Province of Quebec, District of Montreal, 1783-1786.

StreamGate1 6This uninviting title is in fact an illustration to a less-known episode of the life of one of the famous figures of the Québec history. The digitised manuscript documents are related to the court case against Pierre DuCalvet, who was a Montreal trader, justice of the peace, epistle writer, author of the famous Appel à la justice de lÉtat, and passionate advocate of the reform of justice and constitutional system in Québec. The full biography of Pierre DuCalvet can be found in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

StreamGate 7Ce livre est le récit romancé des méfaits, vols, sacrilèges et meurtres d’une bande de brigands qui a terrorisé la ville de Québec et ses environs de 1834 à 1837. Vous pouvez trouver plus d’information sur la bande des Chambers ici. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, this work by François-Réal Angers was considered “one of the most readable and widely circulated books of the first half of the 19th century in Canada.”  It was published in several monograph editions in 1834, 1867, 1880, and 1969, serialised in at least three newspapers, and  translated into English in 1867 as The Canadian brigands; an intensely exciting story of crime in Quebec, thirty years ago!

  • A declaration of His Majesties royall pleasure, in what sort he thinketh fit to enlarge or reserve himself in matter of bountie / James I, King of England, 1897.

StreamGate 4 7This book is a facsimile reprint produced by the British Museum in 1897. The original was published in 1610. This declaration was issued by James I (1603-1625) as a clarifying statement concerning granting of monopolies following the grievances expressed in and by Parliament. The culmination of this discussion was adoption of the Statute of Monopolies 1624, 21 Jac 1, c 3, one of the key texts in the history of patent law. You can read more on the 1624 Statute of Monopolies in this article ‘Generally Inconvenient’: The 1624 Statute of Monopolies as Political Compromise. 33 Melb U L Rev 415 (2009).

And some more books…

  • A letter to Henry Warburton, Esq. M.P. upon the emancipation of the Jews / Basil Montagu, 1833.StreamGate 5 9
  • The work of a faculty of law in a university (An annual university lecture delivered by Frederick Parker Walton, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Professor of Roman Law at McGill University), 1898.StreamGate 6 3
  • A guide for constables, churchwardens, overseers of the poor, surveyors of the high-ways, treasurers of the county-stock, masters of the house of correction, bayliffs of mannors, toll-takers in fairs, &c. A treatise briefly shewing the extent and latitude of the several offices, with the power of the officers therein, both by common law and statute, according to the several additions and alterations of the law  / George Meriton, 1679.StreamGate 5 1
  • Index professionnel des avocats, notaires, protonotaires régistrateurs, shérifs, huissiers, médecins, pharmaciens, dentistes, architectes, arpenteurs, ingénieurs civils, et médecins vétérinaires de la province de Québec, 1894.StreamGate9 1

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Nouvelle version de bibliothèque numérique Gallica

A compter du 1er octobre, une nouvelle version de Gallica est mise en ligne. Elle comprend une refonte technique complète ainsi que des évolutions ergonomiques et graphiques. Parmi les nouveautés à découvrir : le visualiseur de documents et ses différents modes d’affichage (simple et double page, défilement vertical, zoom plein écran), les pages de présentation des fonds numérisés accessibles depuis le bouton “Collections”, des évolutions concernant la navigation et la recherche au sein des titres de presse et de revues, l’arrivée de nouveaux types de documents (objets, vidéos), etc. Pour en savoir plus sur cette nouvelle version de Gallica, consultez le billet du Blog Gallica.

New Exhibition: “Justice, justice shall you pursue”: Jewish Law from Biblical Times to the Present”

Arthur Szyk PosterJewish Law has a history of more than three thousand years. This extended time, can be divided in two main periods: The first broad period begins with the written Torah and ends with the completion of the Talmud. The second broad period is the post-Talmudic period, from the completion of the Talmud until our own day (Elon, Menachem. Jewish law: history, sources, principles).

The Hebrew word “halakhah” is usually translated as “Jewish Law”, although a more literal translation might be “the path that one walks”. The word is derived from the Hebrew root Heh-Lamed-Kaf, meaning to go, to walk, or to travel (Encyclopaedia Judaica).

The principles and rules of Jewish Law are based on the Bible. While some rules are mentioned quite explicitly, others are only implied. All are elucidated in the teachings of the Tanna’im and Amora’im – the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud – and presented systematically in the codes. Thus, over the generations, a comprehensive legal system has developed.

Jewish tradition compares Jewish law to a living tree. As the Torah, the sacred scroll of the Five Books of Moses, is returned to the ark after being read in synagogue services, the liturgy quotes from the biblical book of Proverbs (4:2, 3: 18, 17): I give you good instruction; never forsake My Torah. It is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it, and those who uphold it are happy. Its ways are pleasant, and all its paths are peace. (A Living Tree. Roots and Growth of Jewish Law)

JEWISH LAW EXHIBITION title2The books for this exhibition come from the holdings of the Rare Books and Special Collections, the Nahum Gelber Law Library Special Collections, and the Humanities and Social Science Library.

Among the books presented we find a volume of the Ḥamishah ḥumshe Torah: ketav yad Temani. This is a facsimile edition of 390 copies of a manuscript of the Pentateuch, in accordance with the Yemenite tradition, with the Targum, Tafsir of Saʼadya Gaon and the Collecteana of R. Yaḥya Siani.

A miniature Shulchan Aruch, printed in Venice, in 1574. The Shulchan Aruch, or “Set Table” is a codification of Jewish law composed by Rabbi Joseph Karo in the 16th century. Together with its commentaries, it is considered the most authoritative compilation of halakha since the Talmud.

The book Sefer ha-hinukh: yavo’u vo ha-613 mitsvot, yesod Torat Moshe u-nevuato, was also printed in Venice in the Jewish year 361 [1600 or 1601]. This is an anonymous work on the 613 precepts in the order of their appearance in Scripture, giving their reasons and their laws in detail. The book is mainly based on the Sefer ha-Mitzvot and the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides.

IMG_4131One of the centerpieces is The Codex Maimuni: Moses Maimonides’ Code of law: the illuminated pages of the Kaufmann Mishneh Torah. This book, published in 1984 reprints sixty-eight of the most beautiful pages from the illuminated codex of the Kaufmann Mishneh Torah, one of the most outstanding surviving exemplars of mediaeval Hebrew book production.

A surviving example of Das talmudische Recht : auf den verschiedenen Stufen seiner Entwicklung mit dem römischen verglichen und systematisch dargestellt. Sachenrecht by S. Rubin (Wien: Druckerei-und Verlags-A.-G. Ig. Steinmann. 1938). This copy was printed in Viena, in 1938. According to a review written by W. R. Taylor, the author has planned a study of Talmudic law to be embraced in three volumes. The purpose of the project, according to Taylor, was to bring the Talmudic legislation into a scientific arrangement in harmony with modern methods and to institute a comparison of the Talmudic material with the relative parts of Roman law. At the end of each chapter there are extensive notes inclusive of references, citations, and expositions of maxims from the Talmud and the later codes of Maimonides, Asher, and Karo, and from Roman law.

Ioannis Seldeni, De synedriis & praefecturis juridicis veterum Ebraeorum. Londini: Typis Jacobi Flesher: Prostant apud Cornelium Bee …, 1650-1655. John Selden, 1584-1654, was an English jurist and a scholar of England’s ancient laws and constitution and a scholar of Jewish law. In 1650 Selden began to print the trilogy he planned on the Sanhedrin, the assembly of sages that constituted the highest political magistracy of the country.

IMG_4154 IMG_4157This exhibition was planned and organized by Sonia Smith and Svetlana Kochkina, librarians at the Nahum Gelber law Library.

Une nouvelle acquisition : Le code Henry IV … avec des violettes.

Grace à la générosité du Wainwright Fund, qui attribue chaque année un budget destiné au développement et élargissement de la collection de notre bibliothèque dans les domaines du droit civil non-québécois, nous avons ajouté un nouveau livre rare à la Collections Wainwright :

  • Le code du très-chrestien et très-victorieux roy de France et de Nauarre, Henry IIII : Du droit ciuil iadis descrit, & à nous delaissé confusément par l’Empereur Iustinian & maintenant reduit & composé en bon & certain ordre, avec le droit ciuil de la France, contenant trente & vn liures / par M. Thomas Cormier …

photo 2L’auteur, Thomas Cormier (c.1523-1600), a été un historien et jurisconsulte français et un président en l’échiquier d’Alençon. Son Code Henry IV n’est pas un recueil d’ordonnances du souverain comme le Code Henry III, qu’on détient aussi dans notre collection, mais un traité de droit civil où l’auteur compare le droit romain et le droit civil français. L’ouvrage, destinée aux étudiants et praticiens de droit, est une synthèse du droit romain de Justinien qui selon l’auteur “à nous délaissé confusément par l’Empereur Justinien et maintenant réduit et composé en bon et certain ordre” auquel Cormier a ajouté du droit  français et plus précisément du droit français tel qu’il a été suivi en Normandie. Le traité a été rédigé d’abord en langue latine (1602) et traduit en français en 1603.

photo 5 photo 3L’exemplaire récemment acquis pour notre bibliothèque est notable par sa rareté (à notre connaissance il y a une seule copie identique de cette édition recensée dans la bibliothèque de l’université de Gand). Cette édition imprimée en 1615 à Rouen par Jean du Bosc est en toute évidence la reproduction non-autorisée de l’édition publiée en 1608 par Jean Arnaud. Jean du Bosc a copié non-seulement le texte mais aussi toute la typographie de l’ouvrage d’Arnaud et même sa marque d’impression  (Arion sur un dauphin) en mettant toutefois son propre nom sur la page titre et faisant une omission prudente de la mention de privilège. Malgré des multiples petits travaux de vers, essentiellement marginaux et affectant seulement légèrement le texte, le livre est en bon état de conservation : il a préservé sa reliure de l’époque pleine basane marron avec le dos à cinq nerfs orné aux motifs floraux dorés.

photo 1Pourquoi le Code Henry IV avec des violettes demanderiez-vous ? Parce que ce livre a conservé des traces charmantes d’un de ses lecteurs sombrés dans l’oubli, quatre violettes pressées et séchées entre ses pages, marquant peut-être la section que ce lecteur anonyme a contemplée plus longtemps et plus pensivement que les autres parce que selon Ophélie, « des pensées, [sont] en guise de pensées ».

Collection Wainwright, nouvelles acquisitions: Coustumes generales du duchè d’Aouste

Grace à la générosité du Wainwright Trust,  nous avons ajouté à la Collections Wainwright un nouvel ouvrage  très rare avec seulement quatre autres exemplaires recensés dans les bibliothèques : Coustumes generales du duchè d’Aouste : proposees & redigees par escript en l’assemblee des trois estatz gens d’eglise, nobles, practiciens, & coustumiers : auec les vz & stilz audit pays obserués / le tout reueu & corrigé, & despuis confirmé & approuué par son altesse ; auec deux tables l’vne des tiltres & l’autre des principales matieres par ordre alphabetique.  Publié à Chambery par Loys Pomar en 1588, le livre a conservé sa reliure d’origine en vélin dur avec le dos à 3 nerfs orné de fleurons dorés. Il est la première édition du coutumier du Val d’Aoste.

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Contexte historique : Les réformes du duc Emmanuel-Philibert vont dans le sens de centraliser le pouvoir dans la personne du souverain et de supprimer le pluralisme juridique typique du Moyen Age. Prenant toutefois acte du loyalisme qu’ont démontré les Valdôtains pendant l’occupation française de la Savoie et du Piémont, il confirme les franchises de La Vallée d’Aoste et ses institutions particulières, y compris le Conseil des Commis, créé le 7 mars 1536 par l’Assemblée des États pour gouverner le Pays. L‘Assemblée des États obtient du duc l’autorisation de compiler un Coutumier et de nommer à cet effet une commission de juristes présidée par le premier sénateur de Savoie Jean-Geoffroy Ginod, évêque de Belley. Commencés en 1573, les travaux de la commission s’achèvent en 1588, quand le due Charles-Emmanuel Ier promulgue enfin le recueil des Coustumes du duché d’Aouste, imprimé à Chambéry par Louis Pomar, formé de six livres et comprenant en tout 4262 articles. Summa de la science juridique valdôtaine, le Coutumier concerne tant le droit civil que pénal et règlemente les magistratures locales et les professions libérales. De nombreux juristes et praticiens collaborent à sa rédaction, dont François et Jean Humbert de Vallaise, François-René de Nus, Claude d’Avise, Antoine et Pantaléon Vaudan, Bonaventure-Philibert Bomyon, Vlincent Ottiné, Guillaunie Lyboz et Vincent Regis  (adapté de Joseph Rivolin).

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New Additions to our Digitised Collections: Law Exams from 1861-1896 and Mooters Scrapbook from 1915-1916

We all know that e-exams for the past years are not available for the faculty of law. Not to exactly fill this gap, but to at least provide you with an insight into how the exams looked like for the 19th century McGill law students, we have digitized a volume from our Rare Books Collection that gathers the examination questions for the years 1861-1896. You can find there for example, the questions for the sessional examinations on the Civil Code for the second and third year students that were held on Tuesday, March 5th, 1872.

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Another glimpse into the student life of the days bygone is allowed by the scrapbook made by law students preparing for moot completion in in 1915-1916. The book contains handwritten accounts of the meetings, clippings from contemporary newspapers, a typewritten case Brown vs. Jones assigned to the students and the moot court decision.

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Both books are now available for viewing and downloading via WorldCat:

Examinations: http://mcgill.worldcat.org/oclc/893611291

Reports of moot trials: http://mcgill.worldcat.org/oclc/893611839