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“Next to His Bible”: John Randolph Griffin’s copy of the Louisiana Civil Code

Starting with this post, Litera Scripta will occasionally display images of some of the Bounds Law Library’s more unusual books. Several of these will be chosen for the revealing or insightful inscriptions they bear. These inscriptions may have been written to increase the book’s usefulness, or to complete some thought called forth, or in one case, to predict the inscriber’s future while playing a joke on future readers. Other posts will feature notable bindings, illustrations, interleavings, or insertions.

Title Page, Civil Code of the State of Louisiana, 1857

Title Page

Certainly this post displays unusual elements of binding. The book is Thomas Gibbes Morgan, editor and compiler, Civil Code of the State of Louisiana: With the Statutory Amendments, from 1825 to 1853, Inclusive. . . (New Orleans: J.B. Steel, 1857). Bounds’ copy contains many annotations, some in pencil and some in an ink that has turned brown and in some instances has deteriorated on the page. The rear pastedown contains the following inscription: “John Randolph Griffin-Esq. Bellevue, La. He carried this through the war with him. Claimed this to be next to his Bible.”

Rear pastedown inscription, Civil Code of the State of Louisiana, 1857

Rear Pastedown Inscription

According to one source, Griffin was born in Georgia in 1835, graduated from the University of Alabama in 1858 (second in his class), and moved to Bossier Parish, Louisiana, in 1859. He was elected to the Louisiana State Legislature in time to serve as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs during the war. He died in San Antonio, Texas, in 1873. See  Joiner, No Pardons to Ask, No Apologies to Make: The Journal of William Henry King, Gray’s 28th Louisiana Infantry Regiment (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), 262 n. 5.

Annotated page, Civil Code of the State of Louisiana, 1857

Annotated Page

Interesting as these features are, this book’s obvious point of interest is the slip cover that has been fashioned to cover the original calf boards and spine. At some point, the front board became detached, and some innovative person made a slip cover from bed ticking material, complete with ties that very much appear to have been intended as mattress straps.

Civil Code of the State of Louisiana (New Orleans: J.B. Steel, 1857)

Civil Code of the State of Louisiana (New Orleans: J.B. Steel, 1857)

The covering fabric is faded and dirty, and the stitching is crude but effective. The quality of the work may indicate some facility with sewing or upholstering, but it is impossible to say when the work was done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.