This post by Andrew Toler is an addition to our series of Alabama book notes. Toler is a 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law and worked with Litera Scripta editors as a research assistant in the special collections and archives of the Bounds Law Library.
Review of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
By Andrew Toler
Before the publication of Go Set a Watchman—only eight months before her death—the literary community had come to accept the fact that Harper Lee would likely publish only one book. Upon hearing the news that Lee would, in fact, publish another book, many residents of Alexander City, Alabama assumed that it would be the one that she had worked on for decades about one of the Tallapoosa County city’s most infamous residents.
The book, which Lee abandoned for good in 1987, would obviously never see the light of day—under Lee’s name, at least. In her first book, Casey Cep brings to life both the story that Lee wanted to tell in The Reverend (Lee’s working title for the unfinished book) as well as the story of Lee: her life, struggles, relationships, and complexities. In three parts and 23 digestible chapters, Cep brings to life the story of three main people: the Reverend Willie Maxwell, his attorney Tom Radney, and Harper Lee, the famous author who attempted to write a true crime story about the Maxwell case.
The story that Lee wanted to turn into a true crime book in the style of In Cold Blood—which she helped research with its author, her longtime friend Truman Capote—is chillingly told by Cep in the first part of Furious Hours. Born in 1925, the Reverend Willie Maxwell was a tradesman and lay Baptist minister in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Although at first respected in the small communities of Tallapoosa County, suspicion began to swirl around Maxwell after several of his relatives and associates—five before he was through—died under suspicious circumstances. The suspicion in the community included allegations of voodoo practices: unfounded allegations that were likely rooted in racism against African-Americans, but which the media—both local and national—devoured. Instead of voodoo, the most likely cause of the deaths was the dark power of life insurance, as Maxwell had life insurance policies on every single victim of the suspicious deaths. As a matter of fact, Maxwell was often in dire financial straits during the time of the deaths—which ranged from 1969-1977. Although the story is better told by Cep, the string of deaths of those close to Maxwell finally came to an end in 1977 with his own abrupt demise—shot to death at the funeral of his last victim.
Before his death, however, Maxwell needed his insurance money. And many life insurance companies refused to pay him, given the suspicious nature of the deaths of those on whom the Reverend held insurance. So the Reverend turned to the courts to get the money that he felt he was owed. Tom Radney, the lawyer that helped Maxwell sue the insurance companies—and also successfully defended him against charges of homicide related to the deaths—is the centerpiece of the second part of Cep’s work.
According to persuasive folk memories, Union general Gordon Granger read an order at Galveston, Texas on the 19th of June, 1865, to the effect that all previously enslaved people were free. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect, officially, on January 1, 1863. It freed as many as 3.5 million slaves, but existing Confederate governments, state and federal, had refused to acknowledge it. Therefore the arc of freedom had gone forward with the rising fortunes of the Union armies, and Texas—the Confederate state most geographically remote from Washington, D.C.—was one of slavery’s last refuges.
Freedom for Alabama’s more than 435,000 slaves had come in stages as the war swept through the state. Huntsville, a key location in the Tennessee Valley, was occupied twice by Union troops; the second, more conclusive of these occupations took place in the autumn of 1863. Centers of population in south Alabama were largely untouched until the Confederacy came crashing down. On April 12, 1865, the capital city of Montgomery surrendered to General James Wilson, whose forces had previously captured Tuscaloosa and reduced Selma. The surrender of Mobile took place on the same day, following the Confederates’ loss of their fortifications at Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. In many instances these victories were hastened by the presence of African American troops in the Union armies. Each triumph was followed by memorable feelings of jubilation among the Freed People—who soon faced a new reality of building lives as farmers, craft workers, teachers and students, physicians and lawyers, citizens and public officials. So they lived without the chains of slavery, launching the history of a free people during the uncertain transition known as Reconstruction (1865-1877).
Though Emancipation came at different times in different places, the tradition of celebrating it on June 19th—Juneteenth—goes back as far as 1866. By the 1920s and 1930s, Juneteenth celebrations had taken the form of food/cultural festivals. The observations grew in significance in the 1970s, and by 1980 Texas (appropriately) had become the first to declare Juneteenth an official holiday. Florida followed suit in 1991, Oklahoma in 1994, Minnesota in 1996, and by the end of the twenty-first century’s second decade forty-seven states had declared a holiday on June 19. Alabama enacted its official Juneteenth observances in 2011, and today the date is celebrated by concerts, parades, fairs, educational events, and the gift of free food.
The Bounds Law Library holds several titles that contain historical information on Juneteenth. Among them are Paul Finkleman, editor, Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895, 3 volumes (Oxford University Press, 2006); and Deborah Willis and Margaret Krauthamer, Envisioning Emancipation : Black Americans and the End of Slavery (Temple University Press, 2013).
In November 1869, Henry Tutwiler sat down to review (for the Mobile Register) a translation of the fifth book of the Iliad. A slender volume titled Diomede: From the Iliad of Homer, it was the work of his former pupil William Russell Smith, who had studied under Tutwiler at the University of Alabama more than thirty years earlier. The two men had been friends ever since. Indeed, Tutwiler figured largely in Smith’s recollections of Tuscaloosa days, as a “delicate stripling of a youth,” a recent graduate of the University of Virginia who was so learned that he was “a whole faculty within himself.” Evidently Tutwiler’s manner as a professor was so appealing that “every boy fell absolutely in love with him” and felt for him “real affection, which suffered no diminution by the lapse of time.”
While Tutwiler carried out several duties during his years (1831-1837) at the University, he was primarily a Classics professor. Smith has left us a memorable snapshot of his teacher: “As one of his peculiarities, Professor Tutwiler was seldom seen in or out of the school-room without having a small volume in his left hand. He had a diamond edition of the ancient classics, and carried about with him either Virgil, Horace, the Anabasis, Iliad, Cicero, Terence, or Euripides. These were his quiet companions, from whom he seemed to be inseparable.” Smith went on to say that Tutwiler “was never without a pencil; and would stop in his walks, under the shade of an oak, and enrich the margin of his book with some useful hint or scholarly annotation.”
In the decades since their shared time in Tuscaloosa, each man had enjoyed a distinguished career: Tutwiler as the founder of the Greene Springs School, the state’s most celebrated private academy; and Smith as a lawyer, U.S. Congressman, and author of legal treatises, works of fiction, plays, and poetry. In his review of Diomede, Tutwiler recognized Smith’s status as an important public figure by including him in a list of European statesmen and crowned heads who were devoted to the Greek and Roman classics. Tutwiler was happy, he added, “to welcome any effort to throw off the reproach under which we, of the South especially, have labored, of a neglect of classical literature.”
Tutwiler was aware that Smith had been laboring over the Iliad for some twenty years. Yet seeing a portion of that work “gotten up in the best style of Appleton’s” awoke in him memories even older.
“We well remember,” Tutwiler wrote, “how, when a lad at the University of Alabama,” Smith “was in the habit of handing in as exercises, poetical translations of the Latin poets.” Conjuring up (for modern readers) images of class files carefully stored away at Greene Springs, he declared that “we could, even now, lay our hands upon some of these juvenile productions.” Tutwiler understood that Smith’s translation was a true labor of love, and he quoted a passage from Diomede in which Smith declared that his pleasure in the work “has been long continued, making many a night glorious.”
The Iliad is Homer’s telling of episodes from the Trojan War—beginning with an ugly quarrel in which Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition, offends the supreme Greek warrior Achilles. Their temper tantrums bode ill for Greeks and Trojans alike. Book five presents the exploits of the Greek hero Diomedes, who, inspired by the pro-Greek goddess Pallas (Minerva), rages like a berserker among the forces of Ilium (Troy), killing several notable warriors. In the process we meet many of Homer’s cast of mortals and immortals and see much of the home life of the latter. Such is Diomedes’ divinely granted power that in the course of his rampage he wounds Venus, goddess of love, and Mars, the god of war. Book five ends with Mars safely back in Olympus, his wounds healed.
The Bounds Law Library has published its ninth Occasional Publication, titled Law and Miscellaneous Works: The Lives and Careers of Joel White and Amand Pfister, Booksellers and Publishers. The book features biographical essays by David I. Durham and Paul M. Pruitt, Jr. and an essay by Michael H. Hoeflich analyzing Pfister and White’s printed catalogs. In addition, the book contains facsimile images of White and Pfister’s catalogs and other documents, including White’s correspondence with publishers. Emigrants to antebellum Tuscaloosa, White and Pfister separately operated bookshops, built up clienteles, and began to publish books. When the state capital moved to Montgomery in 1846 they moved with it and soon established a partnership. Following Pfister’s death in 1857, White continued in the business of bookselling and publishing; his most notable author was Tuscaloosa lawyer and politician William R. Smith, author of The History and Debatesof the Convention of the People of Alabama (1861). After secession White undertook a clandestine mission to acquire large quantities of high-grade paper for the Confederate government. Following his own personal Reconstruction, White served as publisher of the Alabama Reports (vols. 50-83), working with the clerks, lawyers, and reporters attached to that institution. All the while he continued to operate his bookstore until shortly before his death in 1896. Law and Miscellaneous Works reveals a little-known world of nineteenth-century southern booksellers and small-scale publishers and places it in the context of regional and national affairs.
From time to time we like to post historical essays written by recent Law School graduates. Today’s post is a work of intellectual history by Christopher Collins, a 2019 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law who is currently a graduate student in the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences. Chris is working on his MLIS. The title of his essay is “Alfred’s Doombook: The Anglo-Saxon Foundations of Magna Carta.”
Alfred’s Doombook: The Anglo-Saxon Foundations of Magna Carta
Magna Carta might often be misunderstood, but far worse is that King Alfred’s Doombook is so neglected. A.E. Dick Howard wrote that Magna Carta “became and remains today one of the great birthrights of men who love liberty.” But on June 15, 1215, it had nowhere near the significance it has assumed in recent years––its force of law actually declined over the next several centuries. J.C. Holt even opened his magnum opus on the Charter with the statement that “Magna Carta was a failure.” And yet we know it as Magna Carta––the Great Charter; but it was less an act of greatness than a preservation of the status quo and perhaps even a bad-faith baronial power grab.
Much of Magna Carta’s influence derives from the fact that it was thought for many centuries to be the oldest extant consolidated written statement of English law. Even after the rediscovery of the old Anglo-Saxon laws, Magna Carta continued to be worshipped as “a sacred text, the nearest approach to an irrepealable ‘fundamental statute’ that England has ever had.” King Alfred’s Doombook, however, is the oldest extant consolidated written statement of English law, and it is time to rediscover it as the true founding document of Anglo-American legal heritage.
This paper aims to show that while Magna Carta is rightfully revered as “a foundation stone of English and American legal rights,” it is not the origin of our liberty-loving rights. Magna Carta is rather a later stone placed upon an Anglo-Saxon legal foundation started by Alfred’s compilation of laws, the Doombook. King Alfred compiled these laws toward the end of the ninth century. He consolidated longstanding customs and practices from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and added Biblical authority. Alfred’s goal in promulgating his Doombook aimed at uniting the English amid existential threats posed by large-scale Viking invasions. And the English kings seemed to base their authority partly on continuity with their predecessors––the legitimate king preserved the traditions of his predecessors, and this is the topic of Part I of this paper.
Kings Alfred and John actually had a great deal in common, as will be discussed in Part II, though history has been kind to the former and critical of the latter. Both were unlikely kings, favored by their fathers and dutiful to their brothers. But Alfred inherited a kingdom on the verge of annihilation whereas John would be crowned king of an efficient and almost automated governing apparatus. This apparatus owed much to the reforms of John’s father, Henry II, but the system itself was built on the works of Alfred and the laws of his Doombook.
Parts III and IV will discuss Magna Carta and the Doombook. Part III will mention two fields that show no Anglo-Saxon precedent: the Charter’s “immediate use” provisions and the introduction of environmental law into the realm of English legislation. Part IV will discuss four common threads that show a continuum between Magna Carta and Alfred’s Doombook. These threads involve the regulation of customs and immigration; the rights of widows and the freedom of marriage; the idea that the king is not above the law and his need to seek counsel from his subjects; and the idea of due process and the equal application of the law of the land.
Every influence English law encountered, including Norman influence, has left an imprint on its character, but the Conquest merely wove itself into the established Anglo-Saxon fabric. England did not begin anew when William and his Normans conquered the island. The Anglo-Saxon system persisted and continued to provide the matrix within which English law would grow. Magna Carta, like many famous tapestries from the Norman and Angevin era, is made of intricate stitching. But the first stitches to Magna Carta were not Norman or Angevin––they were Alfred’s.
The winner of the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for legal fiction is Sharon Bala’s The Boat People. Bala is an author living in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. She is the ninth author to win the prize authorized by the late Harper Lee for a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the power of lawyers to effect change in society.
The prize was first awarded nine years ago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Lee’s world-famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. It is a joint award of the University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal. This year’s winner was chosen by a distinguished panel of writers and scholars, including Robert Barnes, U.S. Supreme Court correspondent at the Washington Post; Steven Hobbs, Tom Bevill Chairholder of Law, UA’s School of Law; Claire Hamner Matturro, author and alumna, UA’s School of Law; Utz McKnight, chair of the department of gender and race studies and professor of political science, UA; and Gin Phillips, author, “Fierce Kingdom.”
The selection committee praised The Boat People for answering Lee’s charge to recognize legal fiction that shows lawyers making positive changes in society. The Boat People follows the story of a group of Sri Lankan refugees who escape a bloody civil war only to arrive on Vancouver Island’s shores to face the threat of deportation and accusations of terrorism. “The Boat People touched me, haunted me, and educated me—in much the same way To Kill a Mockingbird did when I first read it as an impressionable child,” said Claire Hamner Matturro, University of Alabama School of Law graduate and author. “It’s the kind of book I wish the whole world could read with an open mind and an open heart.”
“The Boat People is timely and powerful. Even those who think they are versed in the various vantage points involved in the complex area of immigration will gain a deeper appreciation of the nuances by reading Sharon Bala’s first novel,” said Molly McDonough, editor and publisher of the ABA Journal. “The book explores the perspectives of desperate refugees; the attorneys who–voluntarily or not–are trying to help them; and the adjudicators who are asked to make potentially life-or-death decisions with little to no evidence.”
Bala responded: “It’s an absolute honor to learn that The Boat People has won the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. Writing this novel was a meditation on empathy. My greatest hope is that it has the same effect on readers.”
The 2019 prize was awarded on August 29 at the Library of Congress in conjunction with the National Book Festival.
The latest addition to our collection of works dating from mid-seventeenth century England is a compilation of laws by one John Wilkinson. Its title is A Treatise Collected Out of the Statutes of this Commonwealth, and According to Common Experience of the Lawes, Concerning the Office and Authorities of Coroners and Sheriffs. He published it via The Company of Stationers in 1657. By this time there had been no king on the throne since the execution of Charles I in 1649. Puritans and supporters of Oliver Cromwell’s “Protectorate” were very much in control of the nation. They expected sheriffs and other officials to enforce punitive laws based, more or less overtly, on Puritan notions of morality. Consider this passage, from page 174 of Wilkinson’s book:
“Also you shall enquire if any Ale-house keeper or other person do keep any unlawful games in his or their house or houses, or elsewhere, as cards, dice, tables, loggers, quoits, bowles, or such like. In this case the house-keeper loseth for every day forty shillings, and every player six shillings eight pence for every time. Also Constables ought to search monethly [sic] for such unlawful games and disorders in Ale-houses upon pain of forty shillings, and they may arrest such as they find playing unlawful games.”
In 1657 Englishmen still had three years to wait before the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy and the resumption, in large part, of ordinary games of chance. It may be worth noting that the American essayist H.L. Mencken famously described Puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
For Dr. Julie Griffith’s cataloging of Wilkinson’s Treatise, see below:
A treatise collected out of the statutes of this common-wealth, and according to common experience of the lawes, concerning the office and authorities of coroners and sherifes : together with an easie and plaine method for the keeping of a court-leet, court-baron, and hundred-court / by John Wilkinson of Bernards Inne, Gent. ; to which is added the return of writts, by John Kitchin Esquire, now all published in English
“Welcome to the party, we’re all just papers in the wind.” From “Run, Run, Run,” by Jo Jo Gunne, 1972. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lS7pOaEEOTs]
Several decades into the digital revolution, it is clear that digital devices have had an enormous impact upon the routines of literacy. This effect is every bit as profound as that brought about by the print revolution of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Moreover, the digital universe is arguably much broader than the universe of moveable type. After all, the latter, in simplistic terms, was only a superior way to deal with a medium—parchment/paper—that had been around for millennia. In both cases, the “revolution” involved enhancements in the production, dissemination, and storage of information. But power over information has always meant power plain and simple for the persons in charge of society.
With that in mind, let us consider that persons of rank have had, for more than a millennium, access to documents attesting to their property, status, or worth. Consider the Anglo Saxon concept of “bookland,” which involved royal land grants by means of charters or diplomas, deposited for safety among the records of a monastery or abbey. Moving forward to the early modern world, well-connected travelers regularly carried with them letters of introduction—the ancestors of the recommendations (paper or electronic) eagerly sought by today’s applicants for jobs or college admissions. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the need for documentary endorsement had touched the lives of people who were in no sense exalted. For example, a slave in the American south was required to carry a pass signed by his master in order to set foot beyond the master’s property. Ironically, in the last stringent days of the Confederacy, southern white folks had to carry a stamped pass in order to take railroad journeys; such was the effect of wartime bureaucracy.
Soon after the turn of the last century, several forces came together in the United States—industrialization, immigration and population growth, urban planning and ever more far reaching bureaucracies—to produce a society whose members were defined, increasingly, by their paper documents. A standardized system of birth certificates was in place in the United States by about 1900. By the time children born in that year were well-grown, they needed documentation, identity cards, or printed licenses to live their lives. These pieces of paper determined how an individual could function as a citizen. It was necessary, for example, to present a voter registration certificate at the polls. Likewise, most states required persons wishing to live in legally married bliss to secure a marriage license. Speaking of ubiquitous documents, operators of motor vehicles were commonly required to carry driver’s licenses while operating cars or trucks. Paper money had been common in this country since the time of the American Revolution, but by the early twentieth century, the “personal check” had become the most convenient means of paying ordinary debts.
As this generation approached the age of high school they confronted a world at war. Some of the young men were drafted into America’s World War I armed forces—a path that carried with it an imposing battery of records and identity cards. The young men and women who went to college received student ID cards; those who completed college earned diplomas and membership cards from alumni associations. Graduates who wished to practice law or medicine displayed their diplomas on office walls next to licenses issued by professional organizations or state certifying boards.
Just as these “pieces of paper” confirmed what we were qualified to do, they also governed where we were allowed to go. Travel on such forms of commercial transportation as ships, railroads, airplanes and buses was available only to those who held printed tickets. To anyone who has ridden a passenger train, Cary Grant’s ability (in North by Northwest) to travel without a ticket from New York to Chicago is one of his more impressive achievements. Attendance at many important events (weddings, graduations, recitals) required a printed invitation. The right to attend an even larger number of events—movies, plays, concerts, operas, sporting competitions, conventions—required tickets for which one had to pay.
Recent Library Acquisitions, the Bounds Law Library
Today we announce some recent additions to our Special Collections holdings. In particular we’d like to call attention to some titles associated with the troubles, execution, and printed afterlife of England’s King Charles I (reigned 1625-1649).
This monarch, the second of the House of Stuart, inherited from his father James I an ongoing controversy with the House of Commons. Charles’ willingness to collect taxes not passed by Parliament, to jail intransigent taxpayers without trial, to impose martial law and to billet soldiers in civilian houses led both houses of Parliament to assert—in 1628, by means of the “Petition of Right”—that such practices violated the rights of Englishmen. Charles, for his part, maintained that as monarch he had the Divine Right to rule according to his conscience. In 1629 he prorogued Parliament, following which he ruled without it for eleven years. During this time Charles was increasingly associated with arbitrary government—and with the suppression of the religious movement known as Puritanism, carried out by his authoritarian archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. By 1642, Charles and his royalist followers were at war with Parliament and its Puritan/Presbyterian supporters. After the battle of Naseby (1645) the fortunes of war turned against the royalists; by the end of 1647 the king was in captivity. A year later, Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army had secured effective power in England. On January 20, 1649, the House of Commons (a much-reduced “Rump” Commons) put Charles on trial for his life before a specially created “High Court of Justice,” which convicted him of high crimes. He was beheaded on January 30, 1649.
The first of Bounds’ recent acquisitions to be presented is The Regall Apology, or, The Declaration of the Commons, Feb. 11. 1647, Canvassed: Wherein Every Objection, and Their Whole Charge Against His Majesty is Cleared, and for the Most Part, Retorted (1648). This small quarto volume of just under one hundred pages was published anonymously, and wisely so, since neither Cavaliers nor Cromwellians scrupled to persecute authors or publishers. As its subtitle declares, the Regall Apology is an answer to charges recently endorsed by the Commons—namely, that the king had shown numerous instances of negotiating in bad faith and that he had supported “papists” at home and in foreign lands, notably in Ireland.
The king’s execution did not snuff out devotion to his cause; indeed it made him a martyr. This is shown by another Special Collections title, the anonymous Reliquae Sacrae Carolinae, or, The Works of that Great Monarch and Glorious Martyr, King Charls [sic] the I, printed safely in The Hague in 1650. Bound in duodecimo (perfect for carrying in a pocket, discreetly), this volume is a collection of letters, speeches and proclamations, together with Charles’ answer to the charges that the House of Commons had brought against him in February 1647. After the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, Charles’ admirers did not have to exercise caution. Indeed, the king’s cult proved its durability; 1894 saw the formation of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, still in existence today.
A second recent addition to our Special Collections is Thomas Manby’s An Exact Abridgment of all the Statutes, as Well Repealed as in Force, Made in the Reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II, Until the End of the Sessions of Parliament the 29th of March 1673. This small format volume was printed in London by Henry Twyford, John Streater, and Elizabeth Flesher in 1674, and it quietly provides some telling evidence. For one thing, it skips from “Anno Decimo Septimo” (the 17th year, i.e., 1642) of Charles I, to “Anno Duodecimo” (the 12th year) of Charles II. The latter acceded to the throne in 1660, the year of Stuart “Restoration”; but Manby, like with other royalists, counted Charles II’s years as king from the murder of his father in 1649. Thus his duodecimo year would have been 1661. Thereby Manby effectively skipped over the English Civil War, the Commonwealth (proclaimed in 1649), Cromwell’s Protectorate (1653-1659), the brief Protectorate of Cromwell’s son Richard, and the ad hoc measures that followed. To Royalists, the enactments of those years were null and void, simply not worthy of discussion.
Lest it be thought that Bounds’ Special Collections purchases only royalist titles, consider our recent acquisition of Baron George Nugent Grenville’s Memorials of John Hampden, His Party and His Times (London: George Bell and Sons, 1899). This reprint of a biography first published in the 1830s tells of the life and exploits of a Puritan hero fatally wounded in 1643—whose name lives on in the history of Hampden Sydney College in Virginia.
Our cataloger for these titles is Dr. Julie Griffith. The catalog records of the above works are as follows:
The regall apology, or, The declaration of the Commons, Feb. 11. 1647. canvassed : wherein every objection, and their whole charge against His Majesty is cleared, and for the most part, retorted
Declaration of the Commons, Feb. 11. 1647. canvassed
An exact abridgment of all the statutes, as well repealed as in force. Made in the reigns of King Charles I. and King Charles II. Until the end of the sessions of Parliament the 29th of March 1673. With a catalogue of all publick and private acts. And also, of the lords, spiritual and temporal of the House of peeres. And the names of the members of the House of commons, and the counties, cities and burroughs for which they serve … By T. Manby
 The charges, which also included accusations that Charles had in effect murdered his father James I, can be found in A Declaration of the Commons of England, in Parliament Assembled, Expressing Their Reasons and Grounds of Passing the Late Resolutions Touching No Farther Address or Application To Be Made to the King, (London: Printed for Edward Husband, [February 15,] 1647).
 For the charges, see supra, note 1, A Declaration of the Commons of England, in Parliament Assembled.
 Thomas Manby, An Exact Abridgment of all the Statutes, as Well Repealed as in Force, Made in the Reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II . . . (London: Printed by Henry Twyford, John Streater, and Elizabeth Flesher, 1674), [vi-viii], [ix].
The Bounds Copy of J.W. Shepherd’s Digest of the Alabama Reports from the 17th to the 29th Volume, N.S. [New Series]. Montgomery: Barrett & Wimbush, Book and Job Printers, 1858.
Our “Preserved in Amber” series of posts seeks to celebrate unique and interesting objects, usually but not always a particular volume. The uniqueness typically comes from one striking feature—such as the correspondence between Hannis Taylor and J.B. Bury, pasted in Bounds’ copy of Taylor’s Science of Jurisprudence and featured in our October 12, 2016 post. To the law review spader or other casual user, there would be nothing particularly arresting about our Shepherd’s Digest. Further investigation, however, reveals a book that is interestingly signed and tantalizingly inscribed. Still more investigation reveals a mysterious blemish—quite unexpected. This latter, to be sure, was a feature that invoked this writer’s inner twelve-year-old, who arrived equipped with one of his favorite books.
First, the Book and Its Owners:
J.W. Shepherd, author of the Digest, was born in Madison County, Alabama, in 1826. He graduated
from Yale College in 1844 and returned home to practice law. By 1851 he was
practicing in Montgomery and was tapped as the reporter for the Alabama Supreme
Court, a post he would fill (with various interruptions) until the early 1890s. In line with regional
publishing practices of the time, Shepherd published his 1858 Digest close to home, with Barrett &
Wimbush of Montgomery.
The Bounds copy of the Digest is inscribed with three names on the front pastedown leaf.
The first, written in red pencil, is that of R.W. Walker. This signature could well
be that of Richard Wilde Walker, who in 1859 would be appointed to fill a
vacancy on the Alabama Supreme Court. Walker would go on to serve in the
Confederate Provisional Congress and (1863-1865) in the Confederate Senate. In 1859, Walker sold the Digest to one Thomas Alan Jones,
according to an inscription in Jones’ handwriting. At some point thereafter,
Jones “presented” the Digest to James
Irvine, quite likely the James Irvine who would represent Lauderdale County in
the Alabama constitutional convention of 1865.
The first indication that the Walker-Jones-Irvine Digest contains anything unusual can be
found on the verso of the rear free flyleaf. There can be seen the remains of an
inscription in pencil, almost wholly erased but beginning with the words
“Preposterous Monstrosity” and ending with the words “to take it back.” It is
written, apparently, in Walker’s hand; and its erasure probably represents
nothing more than a courtesy from one owner to the next. Or was there something
written that Walker or one of the book’s other owners didn’t want anyone to read?
Unless we can stage a highly specific question-and-answer séance, we’ll
probably never know.
Moving toward an examination of the exterior text
block, we see more proof that every printed book—mass-produced or otherwise—can
become a unique object in the hands of its readers. Part of this Digest’s individuality is inked on the
fore-edge of the text block in the form of a handy index. The categories are
broad, certain to have been applicable to the practice of the period: Criminal,
Probate, Chancery and Civil. Each of these words was accompanied by an arrow marking
its extent in the text, and also by a number from 1 (opposite Criminal) to 4
(opposite Civil). The intent—purely practical—is far removed from that of
fore-edge artists who have decorated books with symbolic, heraldic, or
Proceeding to the actual text of the Digest, we see that one reader (at
least) has resorted to marking places with often rather emphatic dog-ears. These
dog-ears are placed on or opposite to pages containing the following topics: Constitutional
Law (p. 30); Court and Jury (p. 37); Pleading (p. 95); Statute of Limitations
(p. 197); Assumpsit (p. 403); Evidence (pp. 626-627); and Execution (p. 630).Someone,
in addition, drew (in ink) brackets around three sections of “The Trial of the
Right of Property” (p. 761). Aside from these indications of research
interests, there are few ordinary alterations to this copy of the Digest; but the dog-ears and marks
suggest that its owners pursued the ordinary practice of law.
We encounter a much less ordinary set of marks
beginning on p. 417. What presents itself, in the middle of §50 of the article
on Attachment is a virtually circular mark 1.5 centimeters in diameter. It is a
consistent dark brown in color; it has moved through the paper to produce an
identical mark on p. 418. Each of these marks has stained its facing page (pp.
416, 419). The look of these dark marks suggests that they were burned—burned
with considerable care, possibly by means of a fair-sized lit cigar. For all the world, they
look strangely familiar, like something that resonates in memory.
Of course! What we’re seeing is like a black spot in
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 classic Treasure
Island. All at once the air seems full of references to lubbers and
swabs—charged, too, with the likelihood that we’ll catch a glimpse of the
fearsome one-legged seafaring man, Long John Silver. Just outside my office,
surely, Billy Bones is explaining to young Jim Hawkins that the black spot is
“a summons, mate,” issued by a pirate crew to someone they wished to depose or
kill. I’m reminded of a scene late in Treasure
Island, where Jim Hawkins watches the pirates preparing a black spot. They
were clustering around a campfire; one was “on his knees in their midst.”
Hawkins saw “the blade of an open knife shine in his hand with varying colors”;
and “he had a book as well as a knife in his hand.”
After a few days’ thought and very little (to be
honest) further research, I am forced to admit that it is unlikely that our Digest ever fell into the hands of
pirates, or even lawyers’ children pretending to be pirates. For one thing, its spot[s]
do not conform to the rules laid down in Treasure
Island. Pirates of that book’s Caribbean cut their black spots out of
books, leaving one side unscorched. The unscorched side was supposed to be
blank, so the pirates could write on it some cryptic sentence of doom. The
Walker-Jones-Irvine spot, on the contrary, is burned on both sides, and there
is no evidence that anyone ever took a knife to the volume.
Moreover, the black spot made by firelight in Treasure Island (see above) still
carried s few words of text—a spookily burned fragment of the Book of Revelations,
namely: “Without are dogs and . . . murderers.”  The Bounds Digest also boasts darkened texts
surrounding its double spot, but the texts are all about regulations for the
attachment of property. One, for example, commences: “When a garnishee, against
whom a judgm[ent has] been rendered by a justice [of the pea]ce, removes the
case to the [unintelligible] [c]ourt . . .” To be sure, this passage
once provided a revealing look into legal maneuvers that preceded the carting
away of one’s possessions; but it is a bit lacking in dramatic pep.
Finally, there are doubts concerning whether pirates
ever used black spots at all. Perhaps, after all, it is
better to argue that the Digest’s
black spot[s] were caused by the carelessness of a smoker, piratical or
otherwise, who thought he was putting his cigar down into an ashtray.
 Thomas M. Owen, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama
Biography, introduction by Milo B. Howard, Jr. (1921; Spartanburg, S.C.:
Reprint Company, 1978), IV: 1543-1544. Willis Brewer, in his Alabama: Her History, Resources, War Record, and Public Men from
1540 to 1872 (Montgomery: Barrett & Brown, 1872), 474-475, said that
Shepherd was “a gentleman of a retiring disposition, but esteemed for many
excellencies of head and heart.”
 Owen, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, III: 885.
 See Roy Stokes, A Bibliographical Companion (Lanham, MD:
Scarecrow Press, 1989), 117-118.
 An alternate theory is that the
spots were formed by the application of ink. This seems less likely because the
marks on pp. 417-418 are each enclosed by a little halo of what appears to be
scorched paper. And ink, unless applied by a deft hand, would quite possibly
not have been so neat.
 Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (1883; Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University press, 2013), 22, 238.
 The latter possibility is still
open to speculation, of course.