Category: Exhibits

Historic Maps of Alabama: Judge Benjamin Cohen Exhibit

The University of Alabama Law Library Special Collections recently received a collection of maps acquired by Special Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Cohen during and after litigation of the Alabama and Mississippi Boundary Case [470 U.S. 93 (1985)]. Cohen Maps PleadingThis case was initiated in 1979 by Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick, who was aided by a team that included then-Assistant Attorney General Mark Brandon, now Dean of the University of Alabama School of Law. The Alabama Attorney General’s office  joined with its counterparts in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the status of the “Mississippi Sound”—a much-navigated waterway running just off the coastline of these states. The states wanted the Sound classified as an inland waterway, thereby granting to each ownership of a share of the submerged lands. With ownership would come the right to regulate access to the petroleum and other mineral deposits under the Sound. Constitutionally, the matter fell under the original jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the printed briefs it is identified as “No. 9, Original.” The Court appointed a Special Master to hear the case; he delivered his findings in 1984. The Special Master found “that the whole of Mississippi Sound qualifies as a historic bay under the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. . . and thus constitutes inland waters.” Both the states and the U.S. Government filed exceptions to the Special Master’s report; Benjamin Cohen argued the case for Alabama in November 1984. In February 1985 the Court ruled in favor of the Special Master’s report, overruling the federal government’s exceptions.

“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.