The following excerpt comes from To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife by Lawrence H. Stotter. Examining court proceedings, the policies of church and state, scholarly literature, and the anger and frustration of unhappy spouses, Lawrence Stotter reports on the path of the domestic relations laws adopted in Western civilization. This excerpt discusses the first legal bibliographies written in America.
If we date the origins of American legal literary history to the Mayflower Compact in 1620, then over two hundred years were to pass in America before an interest in legal bibliography was sufficient to result in a completed publication. This honor went to J.W. Wallace, born in Philadelphia in 1815, who learned the law from his father. Wallace was distinguished in his later years as a reporter for the Supreme Court of the United States from 1863 to 1875, during which time he published twenty-three volumes of reports of the high court. In 1844 Mr. Wallace, while serving as a Master in Chancery for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, published the book The Reporters, based upon essays written by him for the American Law Magazine. The book contained a chronology of the common law, chancery, and ecclesiastical reporters from the earliest times until the close of the reign of George II, with remarks. It is generally regarded as the first American legal bibliography.
The second American legal bibliography, entitled Legal Bibliography, or a Thesaurus of American, English, Irish, and Scotch Law Books, was published three years later in Philadelphia by J.G. Marvin. He attempted to identify the “most popular” law books from the earliest period until 1847. We now know that numerous titles were omitted from his work. However, it is still one of the most comprehensive works of its kind compiled as of that time, and contains almost five thousand entries.
Within a year of the publication of the last edition of The Reporters, the third major American legal bibliography was published: The Lawyer’s Reference Manual, by Charles C. Soule. The history of the impact of these bibliographies, and those that followed, on American law if reported in great detail in the book Anglo-American Legal Bibliographies: An Annotated Guide, by William L. Friend.
In 1913 a noteworthy event had a significant impact on the history of Anglo-American legal bibliography. The Harvard Law School purchased, en bloc from his estate, the legal library of George Dunn, an English lawyer, scholar, and collector of early printed books. The acquisition of the Dunn collection, in the words of Roscoe Pound, transformed what had been the largest collection of early English law books in the United States, maintained in the Harvard Law School Library, into one “far beyond the possibility of rivalry.” The purchase was accomplished largely through the efforts of Joseph Henry Beale, a member of the Harvard Law School faculty since 1890. Professor Beale then undertook a catalogue of all the holdings of the Harvard Law School Library from the earliest books in print until the year 1600. His effort, first published in 1926 under the auspices of the Ames Foundation, entitled A Bibliography of Early English Law Books, remains to this day one of the most important, comprehensive, and detailed compilations of early English law books ever written. Professor Beale, who was neither a trained librarian nor an experience bibliographer, simply went through the laborious process of identifying each of the volumes appearing on the shelves, one by one. He made the following comments at the outset of his bibliography:
Sins of omission and of commission in this book are better known to the author than they can be to any user. The author is neither a trained bibliographer not an experienced copyist. He had no sufficient chance to examine the books in any large library except that of the Harvard Law School…With no qualifications and few opportunities, it may be asked why did the author attempt the task? The answer is simple if not sufficient; because no one else had done it or seemed likely to do it. The work claims no scientific merit; it is only a check-list by which those who handle law-books of the period may estimate their wares.
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To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife by Lawrence H. Stotter is a fascinating history of marriage and divorce law and contains one of the most extensive bibliographies on the topic published to date. It is richly illustrated in full color, beautifully designed, and includes five appendices and one hundred pages of bibliographic sources. Read to see why Stotter decided to write this book and how he formatted the text to create a book that could be useful to people in many areas of study.
As a practitioner and collector of literary works relating to matrimonial matters for over 30 years, I repeatedly inquired of book dealers of antiquarian books as to the existence of a bibliography of the early works in the field of my interest which I could hopefully acquire for my collection. I carefully reviewed each catalog periodically received from various booksellers, finding in general a large void in the subject matter.
I thus decided to assemble one myself. It was approximately twenty years ago while I was attending a planning conference of Past Chairmen of the American Bar Family Law Section that the subject of writing a new “History of Divorce” in western society became a topic of discussion. I believe it was Henry Foster, a professor of family law at NYU, who brought to our attention the recently published Road to Divorce, England 1530-1987, and raised the need for such a work about the history of divorce in early American legal activities.
Several of those present had written “Case Law” books which they used in their classes. The point was raised that “non-do-it-yourself” legal literature of this nature was most helpful in giving “real life” to the case book approach to teaching family law. It was suggested that a new history of this subject would make an excellent supplemental reference and text book to dovetail with a case law book, and would also serve as a text for special seminars, advanced classes, or interested family law students.
After some thought, the idea took root, and I began the process of devoting time for research and development of a manuscript. With a full-time practice, finding spare time was a hit or miss process. Over the next ten years, I predicted and expected that someone else would produce a new bibliography or a new divorce history in the US. To my surprise, neither occurred.
Then, around ten years ago, I introduced myself to Christine Taylor at the offices of Wilsted & Taylor Publishing Services in Oakland, California. I appeared there with literally hundreds of pages of manuscript, lists of book titles, and names and events from research covering many centuries of family law-related events. We spent several hours reviewing my materials, during which I was able to illustrate that I had pulled together text and data that was interesting from a lay-persons point of view, as well as to lawyers, and that I had gathered together material that was, even for lawyers, new, long forgotten, generally unknown, or overlooked in any known law-related publications concerning family (divorce) law published in England or the United States prior to the twentieth century.
We then discussed my goals that I wanted to produce something different and special that would stand the test of time. Christine expressed the belief that it would be an exciting challenge for her firm, but would take time and patience. We agreed, and began the process of editing, revising, checking research, designing, illustrating, rewriting, and meeting every few months. We elected to cross traditional borders by molding history with commentary, reference with opinion, coloring footnotes, expanding the margins, and choosing appropriate typographic embellishments.
As we clarified the text, we began to shape the text so that it would satisfy the primary interest of lawyers involved with academic or research goals, while still appealing to a general audience of readers of history devoted to issues of marriage and/or divorce. We then searched and selected the most desirable paper, end-papers, and a cover which were consistent with my expressed original intent and would, we felt, complement and enrich the book as a whole. Lastly, we gave personal attention to insure that the book was bound according to the best practices of binder craftsmanship.
-Lawrence H. Stotter
It sounds like a great deal of time and effort went into the making of this book. Thank you for sharing your story, Lawrence! Click here for more information on To Put Asunder.
Rebecca Rego Barry from The Fine Books & Collections blog posted an interesting article on the new exhibition being held at the Center for Book Arts in New York City.
Until September 10, the exhibition Multiple, Limited, Unique: Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Center for Book Arts will feature works from those who have exhibited, trained, or worked at the Center over the past forty years. In an effort to organize, catalogue, rehouse, and digitize many of the books and catalogues collected over the years, Alexander Campos is leaing a project to take these archives and form a collection. This collection includes how-to books on paper, typography, printing, and binding technique.
Read the Fine Books & Collections blog entry on this exhibition for more information.
Click here to see a list of recent books from the Center for Book Arts available from Oak Knoll.
Take a look at some of the recent work going on at the American Academy of Bookbinding in Telluride, Colorado. A new post on the blog of the AAB shows recent printmaking photographs taken at the academy. Also, check out some of the bindings done by the AAB faculty. The right-hand column includes photographs of the work of Monique Lallier, Don Glaister, and Oak Knoll author Don Etherington.
Click here to read more.
Hello readers. My name is James McKinstry, and I am the newest employee at Oak Knoll. I live in Kennett Square, PA, so it’s a pretty long commute. I went to high school at Archmere Academy, and college at Ursinus College where I received a degree in Mathematics. Although math may not be the first thing you think of when you picture working for a bookstore/publisher, I have been around books all my life. In fact, when I was young, a request for a new book was the only thing to which my parents couldn’t say no. So really, this is a wonderful place for me to work. There’s the old cliché about not working a day in your life if you love what you’re doing, but it’s cliché for a reason. It’s true. But anyway, my responsibilities include book photography, book cataloging, and customer service. So, if something goes amiss, I’m the one you should contact. Hopefully things here will keep running smoothly enough that most of you won’t have cause to get in touch with me. But if you do, I’ll do what I can to solve your problem in a timely fashion.
Well, I should get back to what I was doing.
Thanks for reading this,
Carol Fitzgerald is the author of the Oak Knoll publication Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography. The book highlights thirteen series of American regional writing published between 1938 and 1980, focusing on various American landmarks including seaports, forts, trails, and folkways.
Now, Fitzgerald has donated her collection of books related to the thirteen series highlighted in Series Americana to the Library of Congress. Also including original correspondence, documentation, and copies of research materials, the collection will be housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. This donation and collection represents the importance of preserving our nation’s history and culture.
Click here to read more about the donation, and click here to find out more about Series Americana: Post Depression-Era Regional Literature, 1938-1980, A Descriptive Bibliography. Carol Fitzgerald is also the author of Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography.
This week honors the 50th anniversary of the death of the great journalist and author, Ernest Hemingway. After suffering from many illnesses during his lifetime, Hemingway committed suicide on on July 2, 1961. In order to celebrate the life of Hemingway and remember the 50th anniversary of his death, Oak Knoll is excited to release our new publication, Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography by Edgar C. Grissom.
Described as the culmination of all previous endeavors in Hemingway bibliography, this bibliography is the only publication to classify edition, printing, issue, and state, provide classical bibliographical descriptions, and describe every printing of every edition. The book is generously illustrated with title pages and copyright pages throughout the text and is accompanied by a DVD-ROM of more than 2,000 color illustrations and more than 50 images of Hemingway’s signature from 1908 to 1960. As this bibliography is sure to be the definitive resource for Hemingway collectors, scholars, and librarians for many years to come, we are happy to present our book on the anniversary of the death of such an important literary figure.
Click here for more information on Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography, and click on the following links to read more articles honoring the anniversary of Hemingway’s death.