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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

Rare Book School
Preliminary Reading List

Collecting the History of Anglo-American Law

Morris L. Cohen & David Warrington

Preliminary Advices

Please read the following before coming to Charlottesville:

  1. Baker, John, "The Books of the Common Law" in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume III, 1400-1557 (Cambridge,1998), pp. 411-432 and "English Law Books and Legal Publishing" in The Cambridge History of the Book, Volume IV, 1557-1696 (Cambridge,1998), pp. 474-503, or Baker, John, "Legal Literature" in his Introduction to English Legal History, 4th ed. (London, 2002), pp. 175-194.
  2. Belanger, Terry, "Descriptive Bibliography," in Book Collecting: A Modern Guide, ed. Jean Peters (New York, 1978), pp. 97-115.
  3. Carter, John, ABC for Book Collectors (London, 1980). Read preferably the latest (8th) edition, but earlier editions are fine. (The most recent edition of Carter's ABC for Book Collectors is also available for downloading online without charge as a .pdf file.) See below for specific assignments.
  4. Friedman, Lawrence M. A History of American Law, 2nd edition (New York, 1985), pp. 90-104, 322-333, 621-632.
  5. Hoeflich, M. H. "Legal History and the History of the Book: Variations on a Theme," 46 Kansas Law Review (1998), pp. 415-431.
  6. Simpson, A.W.B., "The Rise and Fall of the Legal Treatise: Legal Principles and the Forms of Legal Literature," 48 University of Chicago Law Review (1981), pp. 632-679.
  7. Trimble, Marsha "Archives and Manuscripts: New Collecting Areas for Law Libraries," 83 Law Library Journal (1991), pp. 429-450.
  8. Please scan the following as well (Webster defines "scan" as "to examine intensively"):

  9. Cohen, Morris L., "Administration of Rare Materials," in Law Librarianship, a Handbook (Rothman, 1983), v. 2, pp. 603-688.
  10. Widener, Michael (ed.) "Public Issues with Rare and Archival Law Materials," 20 Legal Reference Services Quarterly (2001), pp. 1-189.
  11. Heaney, Howell J., "Rare Book Librarianship and Law Librarianship," in Collecting and Managing Rare Law Books, ed. Roy Mersky (Dobbs Ferry, NY: 1981), pp. 55-69.
  12. Parrish, Jenni, "Law Books and Legal Publishing in America, 1760-1840," 72 Law Library Journal (1972), pp. 355-365; scan rest of article.
  13. Bedard, Laura, "Creating and Maintaining Legal History Collections," 24 Legal Reference Services Quarterly (2005) pp. 1-66.
  14. Topulos, Katherine, "English Legal History Research: A Guide to Core Academic Law Library Materials," 24 (1/2) Legal Reference Services Quarterly (2005) pp. 73-101.

***John Carter, ABC for Book Collectors. 7th ed. with corrections and additions by Nicolas Barker. New Castle, DE: 1994). Copies are most easily available from Oak Knoll Books, 414 Delaware Street, New Castle, DE 19720 ($29 postpaid). The firm, which has the book in stock, will accept telephone orders. Call 302-328-7232.

One of the things that makes learning about rare books such a pleasure is that so many lucid authors have written about the subject. We know of no finer introduction to the terminology of any discipline than this book.

The contents of the ABC should be thoroughly mastered, for it is impossible to talk intelligently about rare books without an understanding of what is a very specialized terminology. A good way to approach this task is to study the preliminaries (everything before page 12) and the definitions of the terms printed in boldface in the list below. Then learn the definitions of the remaining terms on this page. Finally, read this irresistible book straight through.

The course will assume familiarity with the terms listed here. To place things in perspective, you may wish to read Belanger's article first.

Leaf Endpapers Disbound
Recto Paste-down Facsimiles and fakes
Verso Preliminary leaves Fly-sheet
Format Fly-leaf Foxed
Sheet Half-title Half bound
Gatherings Frontispiece Imprint
Signatures Title Incunable
Collation Bibliography Inscribed copy
Blank leaves Edition and impression Law calf
Forme Issues and states McKerrow
Folio First edition Original state/condition
Quarto   Presentation copy
Octavo Association copy Provenance
Duodecimo Auctions Publisher's cloth
Cover Bindings Rarity
Spine Boards Re-backed
Hinges Book-plate Shoulder-note
Joints Booksellers' catalogues Side-notes
Edges Broadside Trade binding
Margins Calf Variant
Uncut Catchword Vellum
Unopened Condition Wrappers