Rare Book School

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C-85. Law Books: History & Connoisseurship

Mike Widener

This course aims to teach collectors and librarians how to build focused, interesting, and useful collections of historical materials in Anglo-American, European, and Latin American law. It is aimed at individuals and librarians who collect historical legal materials, and the book dealers who supply them. Particular attention will be paid to planning collections in light of intended use and availability of materials and funds. This course will follow the direction set by Morris L. Cohen and David Warrington in their earlier Rare Book School course, Collecting the History of Anglo-American Law, while expanding the scope to include the legal literature of Western Europe and Latin America. The course will survey printed and manuscript legal materials and introduce its bibliography and curatorship. Topics include the history of the production and distribution of law books; catalogs and reference books; philosophy and techniques of collecting; and acquiring books, manuscripts, and ephemera in the antiquarian book trade. The laboratory sessions will give students hands-on experience in using some of the basic bibliographical tools and antiquarian book price guides.

Students will be expected to have a general knowledge of the history of Anglo-American, Western European, and/or Latin American law. In their personal statement, prospective students should describe briefly their knowledge of legal history and bibliography and their (or their institution’s) collecting and/or research interests.

Course Resources

Course History


Mike Widener teaches this course for the first time.