Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - March - 2007 Issue

Some Fascinating Cases from The Lawbook Exchange

Lawbook44

Recent acquisitions at the Lawbook Exchange.


By Michael Stillman

The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.,
has issued its 44th catalogue, Law and Legal History, Recent Acquisitions. While the natural target for their catalogues are those either involved in or collectors of the legal profession, some of these books will snare a much wider audience. There are basically two types of books within the antiquarian section of a Lawbook Exchange catalogue. There are works that are primarily of note to those with a scholarly interest in the law. These are works that touch on the more esoteric legal topics, for example, laws on easements, shipwrecks, bankruptcy, medicine and the like. Such treatises will interest those with a particular concern for the field or who more generally collect antiquarian legal tracts. Then there are those books which retell cases of murder and mayhem and such. They appeal to anyone who has ever viewed Court TV, or watched Judge Larry determine the fate of the remains of poor Anna Nicole Smith with a combination of fascination, amazement, and horror. Is this really how our legal system works? We will focus more on some of the titles that might appeal to the Judge Larry in us, but with the note that there are also plenty of books available for those who would rather read an erudite law professor expound on the laws of insurance. Here we go.

G. Lathom Browne and C.G. Stewart put together this intriguing account in 1883: Reports of Trials for Murder by Poisoning; by Prussic Acid, Strychnia, Antimony, Arsenic, and Aconitia. Better dying through chemistry. Browne was a British lawyer, Stewart a chemist, and they state they hope this account of numerous 19th century cases of poisoning will "prove useful to the medical, as well as legal profession." Not to mention the murdering profession. The authors provide guidelines for detecting the use of poisons, which hopefully helped snare some of these notorious killers. Item 24. Priced at $250.

Here is another piece that might appeal to your more morbid intellectual curiosity: The Dying Speeches and Behavior of the Several State Prisoners that Have Been Executed the Last 300 Years. This actually doesn't refer to executions in the "last" 300 years but the previous 300 years, since it is almost three centuries old (1720). It describes the final hours of around a hundred British prisoners, including statements made from the scaffold. Most had been convicted of treason or heresy, and they include royalty and celebrities such as Mary Queen of Scots, King Edward, King Charles I, Sir Thomas More, and Sir Walter Raleigh. Item 29. $300.

Item 12 reports a most bizarre situation: The Surprising Case of Rachel Baker, Who Prays and Preaches in Her Sleep: With Specimens of Her Extraordinary Performances Taken Down Accurately in Short Hand at the Time; and Showing the Unparalleled Powers She Possesses to Pray, Exhort and Answer Questions, During Her Unconscious State. The Whole Authenticated by the Most Respectable Testimony of Living Witnesses. Wow!

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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