After a rather long time, almost four weeks without any new posting, I am back at my desk to continue writing for this blog. I have been on a holiday with a rich variety of landscapes, weather types and people. It is still summer. A first quick check for new things learned me that even the ever busy Legal History Blog had slowed down its usual pace of new postings. One of the strong features is the weekly Round-Up in which you can find all kind of things which touch upon legal history but somehow had nearly escaped the alertness of the editorial team led by Mary L. Dudziak and Dan Ernst. My post today proposes to salute their weekly efforts in a more leisurely way fitting this summertime, which, however, has by now taken some very serious turns. Events worldwide will no doubt soon influence this blog. I would like to reassure you I will not turn away from these developments, but it will do no good to react here immediately. Anyway, my list with plans for new postings has a nice length and a variety of subjects from many corners.
Looking closely at pictures
In this post I want to present just a few websites and blogs which came to my attention lately. You will notice quickly that they are not solely, in fact often only rather loosely connected with legal history. I cannot help pointing again to Klaus Graf and his Archivalia blog – does he ever take a holiday?! Anyway a week ago he posted a message on the section on photo tampering in history at Four and Six. At this website you will find an impressive collection of both historical photographs and modern advertisements with images which have been tampered with. I suppose contemporary lawyers will be more interested in the latter. On this website some photographs have been explicitly tagged with the label “Law”, but it is worth looking around for more. On close inspection photographs can tell a sometimes very different story than one suspects at first. We all are aware of the telling power of images. They can conjure up a story more quickly and more dramatically than many well-phrased paragraphs. It is easy to forget about the possibility of tampering with photos when craving for images to convey your message.
Comics and the law
As a faithful reader of the Rare Book Room blog of the Lilian Goldman Law School Library at Yale University I was initially surprised by the efforts to collect child books touching upon law and even comics. In 2010 a series of blog postings accompanying the exhibition Superheroes in Court was even devoted to the alleged Yale Law School degree of Batman shown in a particular story! The point of collecting books on seemingly fringe subjects is to do it in a most sensible way, and here Yale surely succeeds.
I was reminded of the collections at the Yale Law School Rare Book Room because the Freshly Pressed section of my provider’s blog featured a post from Bear Lawyer LLC. Thomas E. Körp is the creator of this blog about a bear who makes a living from law. This blog goes with a nice sprinkling of real American law websites and links to other comics blog and websites.
Lately Et Seq., the blog of the Harvard Law School Library, published the image of a drawing in an old legal book. The image in question is a drawing in a copy of a 1615 edition of the Corpus Iuris Canonici, the multivolume collection of canon law sources printed from the early sixteenth century up to the nineteenth century. The “Weekly Special” of Et Seq. is often devoted to rare law books with an intriguing history or story. In the story entitled A Canon and its Cannon its author Lesley Schoenfield very much wonders about the drawing showing a castle with a firing cannon. I myself have my view of the riddle behind it, but in order not to spoil your own investigation of it I will not give away my solution here…
From Harvard back to Yale. Apart from the superb digital collections of the Harvard Law School Library Harvard University has a most impressive and very diverse range of digitized collections, fortified by the digital collections at Harvard College Library. It seems very difficult to outdo these efforts but Yale, too, can proudly present its digital collections. Not only the university library at Yale but also several other Yale libraries offer access to digital visual resource collections. Recently the website Yale Digital Commons has been launched where one can search in the image resources of five Yale institutions. Legal historians cannot neglect the Yale Slavery and Abolition Portal when researching this subject, and when you need documents in English translation you will often turn to Yale Law School’s Avalon Project: Documents for Law, History and Diplomacy. The Lewis Walpole Library has started the Yale Indian Papers Project with digitized materials from several Yale institutions. It is hard to say which university is winning this battle of giants in the field of digital collections.
In the field of legal iconography Yale Law School can point to the Documents sections of its website which has been created for the image collection Representing Justice. Harvard Law School Library has digitized over 4,000 images of lawyers in the digital collection Legal Portraits Online.
Earlier this year I wrote a post about online exhibitions concerning legal history. On my website I have a created a new page about virtual exhibitions in which I have put things from this post in a more orderly fashion. By the way, of course not only Harvard and Yale, and not only the other Ivy League universities are most actively involved in the field of digital collections. In my latest post almost four weeks ago the University of California, Santa Barbara came into the spotlights with an impressive number of interesting digital collections, pace Berkeley and Stanford. It can depend on a lot of factors which universities happen to make the largest presence in your perception.
The debt crisis in the United States and Europe, the riots in London and other English cities, the aftermath of the terrifying violence against innocent people in Norway, the spreading fierceness of the political climate in my own country, the fear in many European countries for drastic cuts in the budgets for education, research, culture and social welfare, the ongoing fight for democracy in many countries surrounding the Mediterranean and the violent suppression of legitimate protests in Libya and Syria, the troubles in the Middle East, the droughts and famine in East Africa, the anarchy in countries like Somalia, and much more are these days the background of any serious legal and historical research. This might well determine to some extent its shape and direction, too.