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“I wanted to produce something different and special that would stand the test of time”

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.

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