Rare Book School

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Rare Book School
Preliminary Reading List

C-85. Law Books: History & Connoisseurship

Mike Widener


Preliminary Advices

Please read the following before the course:

Items marked with three asterisks (***) are essential reading. I encourage you to read as many of the other items as your time and/or individual interests dictate. If you have difficulty locating some of the readings, email me at mike.widener@yale.edu and I will see if I can help.

Bibliography & book collecting

Anglo-American law

Roman, canon & civil law

Legal history - general

Online exhibits:

Book exhibitions are themselves "mini-collections," books with a common feature or theme brought together by the curator to tell a story. Take a look at these examples.

Assignments from ABC for Book Collectors

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