Foreign Jurisdictions •

852 RARE: Old Books, New Technologies, and “The Human Skin Book” at HLS

Practicarum Cover and SpineBaaaaaad news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy: Recent analyses of a book owned by the HLS Library, long believed but never proven to have been bound in human skin, have conclusively established that the book was bound in sheepskin.

The final page of the book includes an inscription which states,

“The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.”

Intrigued by this inscription, curators, conservators, and dermatologists have studied the book for years, but results were inconclusive. Thanks to a technique for identifying proteins that was developed in the last twenty years, we recently have been able to answer the question once and for all.

At the request of HLS Library curators and Weissman Preservation Center staff, Daniel Kirby, a conservation scientist at the Harvard University Art Museums’ Straus Center, analyzed the parchment binding of Juan Gutiérrez’ Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias Hispaniae (Madrid, 1605-1606; HOLLIS no. 4317553). Kirby used a method called peptide mass fingerprinting to analyze nine samples of the front and back covers, binding, and glue. With peptide mass fingerprinting, the samples could readily be differentiated from other parchment sources including cattle, deer, and goat, as well as human skin. The glue was identified as a mixture of cattle and pig collagen.

If Jonas Wright was indeed a sheep, why would someone have written such an inscription? We’ll probably never know. Perhaps before it arrived at HLS in 1946, the book was bound in a different binding at some point in its history. Or perhaps the inscription was simply the product of someone’s macabre imagination.

In any event, we are indebted to Daniel Kirby’s analysis and are glad the question is finally settled. Score one for modern science! The volume (including the sheepskin binding) is being digitized and will be available online via HOLLIS in late 2014.

New Exhibit: Beyond Cambridge: Two Centuries of Harvard Law School Faculty Work in and on Africa

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce its new exhibit: Beyond Cambridge: Two Centuries of Harvard Law School Faculty Work in and on Africa, on view in the library’s Caspersen Room until April 27, 2014. 

Africa-display-web-reduced text-cropped

 It’s no secret that Harvard Law School faculty do not – and have not – restricted their time and knowledge to the confines of Harvard. This exhibit focuses on the experience of four faculty members in Africa. The faculty, Simon Greenleaf, Arthur Sutherland, Erwin Griswold and Roger Fisher did work ranging from the promotion of education in Liberia in the mid-nineteenth century to involvement in South Africa during the country’s transition from apartheid to free elections in the late twentieth century – and donated their respective papers and manuscripts to the Harvard Law School Library.

 The exhibit, curated by Ed Moloy and Mary Person, will be on view in the Caspersen Room Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM through April 27, 2014.

The European Supreme Courts: A Portrait Through History

The Law Library recently added a beautiful new book to its collection, The European Supreme Courts: A Portrait Through History.

Published in 2013 by Third Millennium Publishing in England, it provides a richly detailed historical portrait of high courts throughout western and central Europe, extending all the way to the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.  It also describes the history and work of some of Europe’s important international courts, including the European Union’s Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

Beautiful photographs and digital reproductions of significant paintings, illustrations, and manuscripts greatly enhance the quality and richness of this title.

This book is shelved in the fourth-floor reference reading room, under the call number KJE5461 .E975 2013x.

Check Out Our New Guide to the Law of the People’s Republic of China

If you are interested in the law of the People’s Republic of China, you are in luck! The library recently published our latest research guide, which covers many aspects of the law of the People’s Republic of China. This guide offers access to materials in both Chinese and in translation. It includes primary law and secondary resources and we plan to continue to update it with additional materials in the future. Whether you are already familiar with this area of research or if you are new to it, you will be sure to find helpful resources for your work.

Follow up on Iceland’s Crowdsourced Constitution

Photo by _Skender_

Those who read our previous post about Iceland’s use of crowdsourcing to allow citizens to have an input on the country’s new constitution will be interested to know that the process has proved successful. Last Saturday, Iceland held a referendum to ask the citizens 6 questions about the new constitution and, with almost  half the eligible voters participating, nearly two thirds voted in favor of adopting the Constitutional Council’s proposals. The next step in the process will be a putting a bill for the new constitution before Iceland’s Parliament, which could happen as quickly as two weeks from now.

If you want to learn more about this process, you can start by reading the current Constitution of the Republic of Iceland on the government’s website and follow this up by reading the full text of the proposal from the Constitutional Council. For further analysis of the proposal, read this report by the Comparative Constitutions Project, which compares it to both the current constitution of Iceland and other constitutions from around the world.

852 RARE: A Little Something for Everyone

Small gems are often hidden within large collections and this summer we were lucky enough to come across just such a gem– a slender volume bound in limp vellum with faded Spanish manuscript scrawled across the front. It surprised and delighted us and seemed to have “something for everyone.”  The outer binding alone is intriguing to look at, the front covered with just barely legible manuscript in Spanish, and the covers neatly fastened with tiny beaded toggles. Upon opening it, one is immediately dazzled by the gleaming floral “Dutch gilt”paper pastedowns and endpapers.

Front cover

Toggle closure & back cover

Dutch gilt paper lining the front opening

The 52-page text, Exámen sucinto sobre los antiguos límites de la Acadia y sobre las estipulaciones del Tratado de Utrecht relativas à ellos is a Spanish translation of the 1755 French work Discussion sommaire sur les anciennes limites de l’Acadie … and the two are printed in side-by-side columns.  This anonymous work is generally attributed to Mathieu François Pidanzat de Mairobert (1727-1779), a member of a French literary society who wrote on a wide variety of topics.

Title page with manuscript commentary

 

Following the provisions of the multi-faceted Treaty of Utrecht  in 1713 France ceded Acadia (most of modern-day Nova Scotia) to Great Britain, but relations between the two nations remained uneasy –as Mairobert’s treatise attests.  Under the printed title of this copy, a note in Spanish points out that the dispute over Acadia was ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris and also mentions the secret November 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau in which France ceded Louisiana to Spain. 

Finally, folded at the end of this slim volume, is an intriguing map of eastern North America showing historical claims to Acadia and the eastern portion of present-day New Brunswick from 1621 to 1750, referred to in Mairobert’s text. The title Mapa de una parte de la America Septentrional uses the old term “septentrional” meaning “of the north.”  This term is derived from an ancient reference to the seven stars of the Big Dipper, used by navigators to find the North Star, and subsequently the name for North America that appears on many early maps. 

Map at the end, unfolded, showing Acadia

New Guide to Free Legal Research Resources

Free! by klabusta

Creative Commons Photo by klabusta

While many legal researchers spend much of their time using expensive subscription databases, an ever increasing amount of legal research information is freely available online. This is particularly true for government documents as many governments around the world, including the U.S. government begin to place a higher priority on making legislative documents freely available to citizens. But, it is also true of secondary sources, local government documents, international law materials and data sets.

The Library has prepared a new research guide that highlights some of the best and most useful freely available resources in each of these areas. Whether you are a graduating student who is looking for free resources to continue your research at your new job or are just looking for government information from any source, this guide will show you where to find information without using an expensive database. Check back frequently, because we will add more resources on an ongoing basis to keep the guide up-to-date on the best free legal resources on the internet.

Introducing a New E-Resource – Malaysia

The Law Library now has access to a new database, CLJLaw. This database provides access to primary and secondary legal materials from Malaysia. The main focus of the database is the primary law of Malaysia, including full text of selected legislative materials, court rules and case law. The included citator also makes it easy to collect all of the cases that refer to a particular case with the click of a button. CLJLaw also offers access to selected treaties to which Malaysia is a signatory going back as far as 1910 and secondary sources, including journal articles, legal dictionaries and translators, and practice note materials. Patrons wishing to use this resource should stop by the reference desk during our normal hours.

Introducing Two New E-Resources – Bangladesh & Ghana

The Law Library has purchased access to two new e-resources: Chancery Law Chronicles, which provides access to Bangladesh’s case law and Lexis Nexis South Africa, which provides access to legal materials from Ghana. Chancery Law Chronicles is the first online database to provide access to Bangladeshi case law. It currently offers access to Appellate and High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh since 1972. In addition to case law, it also includes several dictionaries related to legal practice and some statutes, though statutes are not yet searchable. The database remains under development with plans to offer access to additional legal documents in the future. Our other new e-resource, Lexis Nexis South Africa, is a valuable resource for students interested in researching the Ghana legal system. It provides access to law reports from Ghana as well as the constitution and laws of the country. To access either of these databases, ask a librarian at the reference desk for assistance during normal reference hours.

Stanford Law School’s China Guiding Cases Project

On November 26, 2010, the Supreme People’s Court of China promulgated a new provision stating that the Court would release selected cases as part of a new category of “guiding cases”. It was intended that other courts would refer to these “guiding cases” when deciding similarly situated cases. While not exactly equivalent to binding precedent, many legal practitioners who follow Chinese law believe that these cases will be given similar weight in future cases.

Last week, Stanford Law School initiated a program called the China Guiding Cases Project to collect and provide online access to both Chinese-language and English-language versions of these cases promptly after their release. The goal of the project according to its website is “to advance knowledge and understanding of Chinese law and to enable judges and legal experts both inside and outside of China to contribute to the evolution of Chinese case law through ongoing dialogue on “guiding cases” (指导性案例) released by China’s Supreme People’s Court”. Currently the site provides access to the four guiding cases that have been released to date in both Chinese and English as well as Chinese and English versions of the original November 26, 2010 provision that announced the new concept of “guiding cases”. The project’s Why Guiding Cases Matter page also includes quotes from legal experts and judges on the importance of these “guiding cases” and the site will include additional expert commentary in the future. As new “guiding cases” are released, they will also be added to the website and there are plans in place to offer “Question and Answer” sessions in the future as well. The China Guiding Cases Project will be an important resource for anyone interested in keeping up with future developments in this new concept in Chinese law.