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“A love letter to rare books” – revisiting To Put Asunder

January 15, 2015 1 comment

toputasunder-queenstrial

Academically, it gives a birds-eye view of where family law came from and how it developed to the point in its tradition as we know it today.

To Put Asunder is a “must read” for every practitioner who does not merely copy forms, but who practices law “to make a difference”—for clients as well as for self.

-Willard DaSilva, Family Advocate magazine*

Oak Knoll is pleased to announce that, in cooperation with the author Lawrence Stotter, we have significantly reduced the price of his legal history book To Put Asunder: The Laws of Matrimonial Strife (2011), from $150 to $95. We think you’ll find this a great deal for what one reviewer** called “a love letter to rare books and the history of family law publishing throughout history.”

To Put Asunder is a joy to behold: numerous full color illustrations, wide margins, and colored text are housed in an expertly-made binding, complete with ribbon bookmark. A recent review in Family Advocate magazine* declared, “From a visual perspective the book is a masterpiece,” and an earlier write-up on the AALL Spectrum blog** called it “one of the most visually appealing books I have ever read.”

In 2011, The New York Book Festival awarded To Put Asunder second place in its History division, a highly diverse, nationally competitive pool.

toputasunder-spread

According to Stotter, To Put Asunder may well be the very first comprehensive Anglo-American literary history book written on family law in the twentieth century, or ever. It is the only book in print which provides an early history of family law publishing in both England and the United States prior to 1900, and it contains the first and only current bibliography on the subject since A Study of English Domestic Relations of Matrimony and Family Life, 1487-1653 (Chilton Latham Powell, 1917) and American Family Law and American Family History: A Bibliography (Institute for Legal Studies, 1984).

106293Family law has been overlooked academically – historically designated as “church law” rather than traditional common law, and therefore books such as Stotter discusses here are quite rare. The titles pictured on the dust jacket are, with the rare exception of a few antiquarian collectors and dealers, a reflection of books almost totally unknown to lawyers in general, and cannot be currently found in either public or traditional law libraries. These 16th and 17th century books, along with copies of nearly every English-language treatise on the subject published over four centuries, now reside in the Lawrence H. Stotter Collection at the Mortiz College of Law, Ohio State University.

In addition to bringing these rare books to light, Stotter draws attention to two little-known contributors to the field of family law, each of whom receives a chapter in the book. Henry Swinburne (England, 1551-1624) bridged the gap between ecclesiastical laws and English civil laws by writing in English rather than in the traditional Latin. Tapping Reeve (United States, 1744-1823)—whom Stotter considers the Father of American Law—established the first true law school in America, laying the foundation for legal structures in the United States and training many colonial lawmakers and justices.

It makes a great addition to any academic library with an emphasis on the history  of law or to any library with a strong collection of family law material.

– Lance Burke, AALL Spectrum blog**

Head over to our website to learn more about To Put Asunder, read an excerpt, and see the table of contents.


*  Willard DaSilva, editor emeritus of Family Advocate magazine, a publication of the American Bar Association. Review in Family Advocate. Summer 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 1).
** Lance Burke, reference/access services librarian, Elon School of Law. Review on AALL (American Association of Law Libraries) Spectrum blog.  Nov. 2011

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

July 26, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

The Art of Suspense: Tim’s Wedding Proposal

August 19, 2010 3 comments

Kimberly and Tim

Out of the Hitchcock section of the film class I took in high school came the pivotal idea I used in my marriage proposal.

Hitchcock and weddings? What kind of person could find anything worth learning about marriages from Hitchcock? Let me explain.

We had gone through several of the old classic films, such as Casablanca (fantastic!) and Citizen Kane (overrated in my opinion), when we finally began our section on Alfred Hitchcock, with Psycho and Rear Window. My teacher told us his common techniques, such as the cameos in his movies, and how he attempted to shoot each scene so artistically that each frame could have been a photograph. What stuck with me the most from that class, however, was the illustration she shared with us that Hitchcock discovered when he unlocked the art of suspense. Also known as Hitchcock’s Bomb Theory, which Hitchcock explained in an interview with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock started with the scenario of two men having an ordinary conversation. If a bomb goes off while the men are having a conversation, the audience is surprised for a moment because of the bomb. However, if the audience sees the man place the bomb in the room before the conversation starts, then every moment of that otherwise ordinary conversation is charged with excitement.

Yet what does this have to do with proposals? Well, it has a lot to do with it if you intend to marry a woman who claims she can’t be surprised! My Kimberly is quite the nosey little girl, and she is also extremely aware of people’s attitudes and can usually tell if they are hiding something. Of course, when you want to propose to someone, you want the method to be a surprise, but if the surprise is discovered, then most of the effect is lost.

Not wanting to risk it, I followed Hitchcock’s principle. The day I proposed to her, I told her in the morning that I was going to propose to her sometime that day, and then the activities began! I first took her to High Tea at an English tea house, followed by a walk amidst the lovely autumn trees at Winterthur, and ending at my house, where I finally proposed to her and made her an exquisite dinner with filet mignon, a special green bean recipe, and rice.

She loved it! We just had our one-year engagement anniversary on August 8th, and we agreed awhile ago that we would always try to celebrate it by replicating a part of it (I cooked the dinner again). I was so glad that the principle of suspense vs. surprise held true, and she said that it did make a big difference throughout the day.

-Tim, Bookkeeping and Customer Service

Feel free to share your proposal story or any life lessons you’ve learned from books or film!