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Archive for November, 2014

“A Little Renaissance of Our Own:” Tudor-Stuart Law Books

La Graunde Abridgement, Sir Robert Brooke

La Graunde Abridgement, Sir Robert Brooke, 1573

The following text and images are taken from an exhibit titled, “A Little Renaissance of Our Own.” That exhibit was first shown several years ago, and was remounted in our Special Collections reading room in October 2014. Our efforts to acquire materials from this era are ongoing, as this exhibit shows, but it also reflects works added decades ago, thanks to the initiative of the late Professor John C. Payne, for whom our reading room is named.

The Tudor-Stuart Era was a time of upheavals and transformations. Henry VII seized power (1485) as a feudal monarch, ruling over a manorial economy. Spiritually, most Englishmen lived within the framework of medieval Catholicism. Two centuries later, the overthrow of James II (1688) saw England governed by a constitutional monarchy with far-flung commercial and colonial empires. Intellectually, the English had been influenced both by Renaissance humanism and the turbulent reformism of the Protestant Reformation. The latter contributed to the rise of Parliament as a counterweight to the absolutist Stuart Kings James I (1603-1625) and Charles I (1625-1649).

La Graunde Abridgement, Anthony Fitzherbert

La Graunde Abridgement, Anthony Fitzherbert, 1577

 

 

English law had changed too; but as law is a conservative discipline, it should not be surprising that law writers sought to reconcile medieval common law (obsessed with title to land) to a new world of trading ventures. The task was to digest and restate, beginning with Thomas Littleton’s Tenures (1481 or 1482), continuing through variants of La Graunde Abridgement (from 1516), and culminating in the works of Edward Coke, notably his thirteen volumes of reports (from 1600) and his four-volume Institutes (1628-1644). F.W. Maitland said of Coke’s ex post facto medievalism that “We were having a little Renaissance of our own, or a Gothic revival if you please.”

 

 

Reliquiae Sacrae Carolinae

Reliquiae Sacrae Carolinae, 1650

This exhibition includes three grand abridgements (1573, 1577, 1675) and several editions of reports, including Coke’s Size Part (1607), Thomas Ireland’s abridgement of Coke’s Reports (1651) and Henry Yelverton’s Reports (1661). Likewise, there are practice aids such as the wonderfully titled Simboleography (1603), a study of “Instruments and Presidents.” Finally, on display are historical works (a 1640 Bracton, a 1673 Glanville) and one polemic—the 1650 Reliquiae Sacrae Carolinae, published a year after Charles I’s execution at the hands of Parliament, and devoted to “that Great Monarch and Glorious Martyr.”

 

La Size Part Des Reports, Edward Coke

La Size Part Des Reports, Edward Coke, 1607

Printing styles range from the glorious Renaissance presentations of Richard Tottel to the balanced lines of Restoration craftsmen whose fonts anticipated those of the Enlightenment. The volumes range in size from folios to duodecimo pocket books. The Charles I reliquary is one of the latter—published at the Hague and no doubt carried as discreetly as possible by its readers in England.

 

 

 

 

Book Note: Dan T. Carter’s Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South

Carter_SCOTSBOROcovsktch.inddIn addition to exploring new acquisitions, exhibits, and collections in the Bounds Law Library’s Special Collections, we will occasionally post short book notes on works relevant to Alabama and Southern legal history. We hope to explore both classic and more recent works, from a variety of disciplines and methodologies, with an eye towards illuminating the depth and breadth of the field.

Originally published in 1969, Dan T. Carter’s Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South was the first book-length account of the now infamous story of the Scottsboro Boys. In March of 1931, nine young African-American men, ranging in age from thirteen to twenty years old, were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train traveling from Chattanooga to Memphis. Local law enforcement searched the train near the town of Paint Rock, Alabama, and the trials took place in the nearby city of Scottsboro. The case attracted a great deal of media attention due to the youth of the defendants, the speed of the trials, the all-white jury, and the woefully inadequate nature of defense counsel. With the legal and economic assistance of both the American Communist Party and the NAACP, the cases were ultimately retried three times, resulting in prison sentences for five of the nine. The Scottsboro cases came to symbolize the gross miscarriage of justice that awaited African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. Carter’s book explores the numerous trials, appeals, retrials, lynch mobs, copious media attention, involvement of various political organizations, and eventual U.S. Supreme Court cases that resulted from those events.

The 2007 revised edition of Carter’s classic work adds both a new introduction and a new final chapter, in which Carter explores further repercussions of the Scottsboro Boys cases. Though several of Carter’s sources claimed that the two white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, died in the early 1960s, they were in fact both still alive when the book was first published. After a subsequent documentary on the Scottsboro Boys was aired on NBC in 1976, the two women sued the television network for libel. Dr. Carter was called as a witness in the case, which was eventually dismissed. His last chapter recounts his experiences with that trial, as well as his final reflections on the story of the Scottsboro Boys.

Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South should be of particular interest to legal scholars not only for its excellent and detailed account of the many trials, legal and otherwise, endured by the nine young men, but also for its examination of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Powell v. Alabama, that laid the groundwork for Gideon v. Wainwright and the court’s determination that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to counsel.

Ellie Campbell

 

New Acquisitions: Blackstone’s Commentaries

Blackstone bookplate border

Commentaries Bookplate

 

 

William Blackstone’s name is iconic in the common law world. The Bounds Law Library is pleased to add a first-edition set of Blackstone’s Commentaries (printed at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1765-1769) to its collection of common law works, which include several later editions of the Commentaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackstone book 1

Blackstone book 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackstone book 3

Blackstone book 4