Cherry Lynn Thomas (1951-2022) passed away on November 3rd of this year. She was a member of the UA Law Class of 1983. While a law student she was the recipient of the Thomas W. Christopher Outstanding Service Award. She passed the bar in 1982 and worked (1982-1983) as a librarian for the Alabama’s Supreme Court and State Law Library. From 1983 to 1991 Cherry was Director of the University of Alabama Law Library. While director, Cherry was an active member of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the Southeastern Association of Law Libraries (SEALL). In these capacities she served on committees and hosted meetings, including the annual SEALL conference of 1991.
Cherry was a fine scholarly bibliographer. Her most notable work (coauthored with Jean McCulley Holcomb) was Hugo Lafayette Black: A Bibliography of the Court Years, 1937-1971, 38 ALABAMA LAW REVIEW 381-499 (1987). In this work, Thomas and Holcomb provided biographical information and painstakingly listed pertinent articles, books, dissertations, theses, speeches and manuscripts. They also included annotated lists of Justice Black’s majority, dissenting, and concurring opinions. In its time, this work was a definitive bibliographic approach to Justice Black’s court career.
Cherry was forced into retirement for health reasons just as she was beginning to lead the Law Library toward automation of its cataloging and circulation services. Her legacy lived on for many years in the careers of the people she hired. The latter included Robert Marshall (variously Head of Reference, Acting Director, and Director) and Penny Calhoun Gibson (Public Services Librarian, Reference Librarian, and Interlibrary Loan Librarian). We all admired Cherry’s intelligence, her work ethic, and the courage with which she lived for more than three decades while battling her condition. Requiescat in pace.
Marjorie Fine Knowles, the first female dean of a Georgia law school and a nationally recognized advocate for women’s rights, died on Friday September 24. She was 82 years old.
A New York City native who graduated from Smith College and Harvard Law School, Knowles served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York and with the criminal section of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. In 1970 she became executive director of Joint Foundation Support, “one of the first foundations to support groups involved in grassroots organizing to combat racism and poverty in the Deep South.” In 1972 she married Tuscaloosa civil rights attorney Ralph Knowles, whom she had met at Selma.
That year, Knowles became one of the first women to join the faculty of the UA School of Law. During her career at the School of Law, she was a role model and advocate for women and women’s rights on the campus and in the larger world. Dean Mark Brandon (UA Law, Class of 1978) was her student. He remembers her as an outstanding professor:
“Marjorie was a rigorous teacher (I know from personal experience). Her courses ranged widely from evidence, to sports law, to conflicts, and to sex-based discrimination. Her most important contributions, however, were to the causes of civil rights and especially the status of women. Her influence was national, but she also had a profound impact ‘at home.’ In her time at Alabama, she helped to change the face and culture of the Law School, as the number of women studying law here increased almost six-fold.”
Dean Knowles wrote many law review articles and other writings, but the one that probably had the most impact in Alabama was her Legal Status of Women in Alabama: A Crazy Quilt, 29 Alabama Law Review 427-516 (1978). This pioneering work of scholarship was “the first comprehensive analysis of Alabama’s statutes affecting women”; moreover the article “became a blueprint for removing sexist provisions from the Alabama Code.”
Dean Knowles served at the Law School from 1972 to 1978, when she took a leave of absence to serve the Carter administration, first as an assistant general counsel in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and “soon afterwards as the first Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor.”
In 1980 she and her family returned to Alabama, where they remained until 1986, when she accepted the Deanship of the Georgia State University’s College of Law. She was only the seventeenth woman to sit as Dean of a law school in the history of the United States. Knowles’ deanship lasted five years, during which Georgia State’s law school earned its accreditation from the American Bar Association—a landmark achievement. She continued to teach at Georgia State until 2011, and continued to be active in good causes thereafter.
During a very active career as a professor and administrator, Marjorie Fine Knowles took on many challenges. She was a key professor in developing a Women’s Studies curriculum at the University of Alabama, for example. She was an influential advocate, nationally, of the Equal Rights Amendment; and in 1975 she helped finance Gloria Steinem’s Ms. Magazine. She served on many boards and won an assortment of honors. Among the latter was her 1975 inclusion among the Ten Outstanding Young Women in America by the National Federation of Business and Professional Women. Georgia State University has honored Marjorie and Ralph Knowles by naming the College of Law’s Conference Center after them.
Marjorie Fine Knowles will be remembered warmly and respectfully for her excellence and impact as a teacher, administrator, scholar, and advocate for all that is best in us.
Maud McLure Kelly (1887-1973) was Alabama’s first woman lawyer and a pioneering political activist and archivist. Kelly was born on July 10, 1887, in Oxford in Calhoun County to Richard Bussey Kelly, a lawyer, and Leona Bledsoe Kelly. She graduated from Anniston’s Noble Institute, a primary and secondary school, in 1904, having absorbed her parents’ staunchly pro-Confederate, Democratic views. From an early age, Kelly was fascinated with law, and after the family moved to Birmingham in 1905, she read law in her father’s office. Two years later, Kelly entered the University of Alabama to study law formally. Although the school had opened its doors to women more than a decade earlier, Kelly was only its second female student. Well liked by her classmates (who called her “sister in law”), Kelly graduated third in her class in 1908. Nevertheless, had not John McDuffie, a law student and legislator, rewritten the bar admissions statute so that women could present credentials, Kelly might never have practiced in Alabama.
Kelly was admitted to the bar in October 1908 and opened a practice in Birmingham. Within a few years she was handling a variety of civil matters and criminal cases, including a lawsuit against the Alabama Coast Line Railroad for the killing of an African American child. She also assisted the state attorney in prosecuting a case. In 1914, after being nominated by famed attorney William Jennings Bryan, Kelly was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Kelly was also politically conscious. She joined women’s historical, genealogical, and cultural societies.
An ardent suffragist, Kelly joined the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association and participated in its campaign to give women the right to vote, serving on the executive council and the policy-making board. She also advocated for the poor and underserved. By 1919, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified and women were given the right to vote, Kelly had taken a post as a federal attorney with the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.
In addition to her work, Kelly volunteered to work with hospitalized veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center—an experience that would soon prove useful. In 1924, displeased with the scandal-ridden administration of Warren G. Harding and needed at home to care for her ailing father and two brothers wounded in World War I, she returned to Birmingham, where she resumed her practice, her professional associations (she was an officer in the Alabama Woman Lawyers Association), and her political interests. She stumped the state in 1928 for Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, and in 1932 served as official host for the Alabama delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
Able to live off some wise investments, Kelly ended her legal practice in 1931 but continued to do civic work, notably for the American Legion Auxiliary. In 1943 Kelly accepted Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) director Marie Bankhead Owen’s offer of the combined post of acquisitions agent, editor of the Alabama Historical Quarterly, and inspector of county records. In addition, Kelly authored legislation that gave ADAH authority over public records. Retiring in 1956, she continued to care for ailing family members and took up genealogy. Kelly died on April 2, 1973, and was buried in Anniston’s Hillside Cemetery. A devout Baptist, she donated her personal collection of genealogies, local histories, maps and other items to the Special Collections Department of the Samford University Library.
McDuffie, John. To Inquiring Friends If Any: Autobiography of John McDuffie, Farmer, Lawyer, Legislator, Judge, As Told toand Edited by MaryMargaret Flock. Mobile, Ala.: Azalea City Printers, 1970.
Newman, Cynthia. Maud McLure Kelly: Alabama’s First Woman Lawyer. Birmingham, Ala.: Birmingham Printing and Publishing Co., 1984.
Sallee, Shelley. The Whiteness of Child Labor Reform in the New South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004.
Thomas, Mary Martha. The New Woman in Alabama: Social Reforms and Suffrage, 1890–1920. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1992.
Julia S. Tutwiler, “The Upton Sinclair Fast Cure for the Mind”
The academic year 1910-1911 was an awkward time for Julia Strudwick Tutwiler. A celebrated educator, prison reformer and temperance advocate, she had only recently (May 1910) been forced to retire from her position as president of the Alabama Normal College. A letter-writing campaign by some of her former students had only antagonized the school’s Board of Trustees, who cut off her pension. Nearing her seventieth birthday and in deteriorating health, she would keep up an array of reformist activities; but she was no longer an educator, and to that extent she felt adrift.
As an educator, Julia Tutwiler had tried to lead her students—whether college women at ANC or convicts at a stockade Sunday school—toward lives of reason, moderation, and self-control. The piece transcribed below, “The Upton Sinclair Fast Cure for the Mind,” may be an example of the tone she had often struck as a teacher. Upton Sinclair was a Progressive journalist and novelist, most famous today for his 1906 muckraking expose of the meatpacking industry, The Jungle. By 1911 Sinclair (like Julia Tutwiler, a prohibitionist) was promoting a health regimen which included fasts of ten or twelve days. Tutwiler discussed his ideas within her circle of family and friends and came up with her own more psychological insight, which she presented (together with a smattering of reminiscences) in an April letter to the Montgomery Advertiser:
“Everybody here has been talking about Upton Sinclair’s Fast Cure; and some of us have tried it with good results. But have you ever tried a Fast Cure for the Mind? Did you ever resolutely resolve not to read a daily paper or a magazine for ten days, and then watch the operations of your mind to see how much stronger they were? Just try it. Ask some friend to tell you if anything very startling occurs—if Spain, Italy or Great Britain changes to a republic; somebody assassinates the Czar of Russia, or Roosevelt performs some new astounding “stunt.” If you live in a city you will see all you must really know from the bulletin boards outside the offices of the great dailies. What earthly good will it do you to learn that a man in Nevada poisoned his wife; or that a crazy lover in Oklahoma shot his sweetheart and then himself. You can learn from the census statistics that a certain number of people out of every ten thousand are going to do these same things every year, and that is enough. What good does it do you to know the man’s name? The reading of it used up a milligram of your mental vitality, and your supply is not inexhaustible.
I was once so situated that for a considerable time I was cut off from all light reading. I consider that I made more mental growth during that time than in any period of my life of equal length. When I was studying in Germany, the first Emperor—good old Wilhelm—was still reigning. Every few days the papers announced that some recalcitrant editor had been incarcerated for thirty days. Some one had written an article for his paper which displeased the censors of the press, and the editor refused to tell the name of the contributor. The editor was treated very much like a naughty little boy who is put to bed and not allowed to have any of his toys [nor] any books except his Sunday books. He was strictly prohibited from seeing the papers during his incarceration. I have thought that the rulers were very short-sighted. They did not know that he would come out of his forced retirement like a giant refreshed—like Samson after his hair had grown out. His blows would be harder than ever; if they had been “facers” before they would be regular “knock-downs” now.
I have always felt that one of the most delightful pleasures in crossing the Atlantic was that you were completely cut off from the news of the world. No daily paper, no letters no telegrams. You were a sort of Crusoe on a luxurious [moving] island, but with numerous pleasant companions. But, alas! The wireless telegraph has changed all that. A daily paper is published on every great liner. You will have to be your own mental Crusoe and resolutely withstand the temptations of dailies and weeklies for a fixed time. Try it. You will be well paid for the experience.
Julia S. Tutwiler.”
 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1906).
 Upton Sinclair, The Fasting Cure (New York and London: M. Kennerley, 1911).
 Montgomery Advertiser, April 16, 1911. The published letter was checked against a handwritten draft found in the McCorvey and Tutwiler Families Paper, Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama.
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.
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.
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.