Foreign Jurisdictions •

852 RARE: Hiding in Plain View – Price caps on Spanish books

Earlier this year Historical & Special Collections acquired a 1571 edition of the Spanish bishop and jurist Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva’s Clementinae, si furiosus, de homicidio, relectio—a treatise on murder published in Salamanca.

Title page of Clementinae, si furiosus, de homicidio, relectio, 1571

Title page of Clementinae, si furiosus, de homicidio, relectio, 1571

While cataloging it, I couldn’t help but notice a half-size sheet of paper tipped in following the title page.

Tasa insertThe wording looked vaguely familiar, one of the preliminaries that readers usually skips over to get to the main text. But the fact that this slip of paper appeared to be a last minute addition caught my eye. What exactly was it anyway? And how was it related to the phrase at the foot of the title page: “Esta tassado en“?

Detail of the title page: "Esta tassado en"

Detail of the title page: “Esta tassado en”

The slip of paper turns out to be a tasa (or tassa) the maximum retail price allowed for the book. This was established by the powerful Council of Castile and certified by an “escrivanos” (a clerk or notary)–in this case one Domingo de Zavala. The price of books had been regulated by law since the late fifteenth century. This price cap was based on the number and size of sheets of paper used in the production of every book published in Castile, no matter what the topic.

In the case of this slender volume of canon law, the maximum price was three maravedis per sheet. The sheets referred to in this book’s tasa (“cada pliego escripto de molde”) are the printed sheets as they came off the press— not the actual pages in the final product. This is because in the hand-press period (approximately 1455 to 1830) a single sheet, folded and cut, could produce anywhere from two to sixty-four pages, depending on the desired size of the finished book.

Unlike the tasa inserted into this copy of Covarrubias’ work, most tasas, sometimes combined with licenses, are clearly identified as such:

The license and tasa in "Capitulos generales de las cortes del año de ochenta y seys, fenecidas y publicadas en el de nouenta" (Published in Madrid, 1590)

The license and tasa in Capitulos generales de las cortes del año de ochenta y seys, fenecidas y publicadas en el de nouenta (Published in Madrid, 1590)

Sometimes the tasa is stated simply at the foot of the title page:

Detail from title page of "Reportorio de la nueva recopilacion de las leyes del reyno" (Published in Alcalá de Henares, 1571)

Detail from title page of Reportorio de la nueva recopilacion de las leyes del reyno (Published in Alcalá de Henares, 1571)

Perhaps the latter option was the original intention in Covarrubias’ 1571 edition …

Esta tassado en… but for reasons unknown the maximum retail price established for the book was never added so the separate tasa statement needed to be inserted after printing.

In addition to capping book prices, the Council of Castile had a firm hand on the business of publishing and printing books in other ways. This included the issuing of licenses to publish, privileges (the right to reprint), censorship, and other forms of governmental oversight. The Spanish book trade continued to be tightly regulated well into the eighteenth century, but the tasa for books was discontinued in 1763, early in the reign of Carlos III, King of Spain.

Our German Law Research Guide is all new!

GermanFlag_LargeAs of this week, the law library’s research guide for German law has a brand new look, as well as lots of new content.

The guide includes information about using print and electronic materials to research German legislation, case law, and legal secondary sources, such as statutory commentaries and journals.

In addition, illustrated research examples (with English-language explanations) are provided for the law school’s major German law subscription databases, Beck-Online and Juris.

Check it out at http://guides.library.harvard.edu/GermanLaw.

New eResources at Harvard

The Harvard Library has an astounding amount of resources, with new titles coming in every day!  For help efficiently navigating it all, make a time to meet with a librarian or contact the Reference Desk.

New resources at Harvard

American Indian Histories and Cultures

Manuscripts, artwork and rare printed books dating from the earliest contact with European settlers; with treaties, speeches and diaries, andd travel journals.

Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online 

Jonson’s complete writings;  and comprehensive body of essays and archives necessary for full study of Jonson’s life.

Digital Innovation South Africa

Scholarly resource focusing on the socio-political history of South Africa, particularly the struggle for freedom during the period  from 1950 to the first democratic elections in 1994.

Gallup Analytics     

Data from countries representing 98% of the world’s population; access Gallup’s U.S. Daily tracking and World Poll data to compare residents’ responses on topics such as economic conditions and education.

Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance

Authoritative information on theatre and performance from ancient Greek theatre to the latest developments in London, Paris, New York, and around the globe; covers dance, opera, radio, film, television, and popular performance.

Oxford Handbooks Online / Music 

Scholarly books (online) contain essays written by the foremost scholars in music.

Palgrave Encyclopedia of Strategic Management 

Strategic management is an emerging field with loosely defined concepts and boundaries; this encyclopedia seeks to give the field some definition.

Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing Archive [PEP]

An archive of the entire psychoanalytic literature in English, along with foreign and international journals.

SRDS (Kantar Media)

Circulation data and advertising rates for U.S. publications; market demographics and lifestyle market analysis – with info on attitudes toward sports, travel and leisure.

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.