Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2007 Issue

Law and Legal History from The Lawbook Exchange

Lawbook46

Law and Legal History from the Lawbook Exchange.


By Michael Stillman

From The Lawbook Exchange we have received their 46th catalogue of Law and Legal History. The format is similar to its predecessors -- some newly published books, along with many antiquarian and scholarly works. We will focus on a few of the antiquarian books as these are likely to have the broadest appeal, well beyond the boundaries of legal scholarship. However, those looking for a greater understanding of various legal topics will find an outstanding selection available from The Lawbook Exchange. Now, here are a few of the books that may appeal to the wider audience.

For those who like to mix radical politics with their law, item 11 is the two-volume An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness, published in 1793. The author, William Godwin, was married to noted early reformer and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft; his daughter was Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein. Godwin was an anarchist. He believed that all people were subject to reason, that reason would teach us to be good to each other, and therefore there was no need for laws. Not only was government unnecessary, but institutions such as marriage were unneeded as well. My guess, based on observing the world that surrounds us, is that people are not so reasonable as Godwin thought, so we better have a few rules, but perhaps someday his idealistic universe will arrive. Priced at $7,500.

The Lawbook Exchange always has a few trial reports to offer. Item 66 is the Official Report of the Trial of Mary Harris, Indicted for the Murder of Adoniram J. Burroughs...prepared by James O. Clephane, Reporter, in 1865. Burroughs was evidently something less than a gentleman. Engaged to wed Miss Harris, he attempted to compromise her virtue, and then promptly left her to marry another. Miss Harris followed him to Washington where he worked as a clerk at the Treasury, and shot Mr. Burroughs in a corridor of the treasury building. The defense adopted a new plea, temporary insanity, based on, according to an expert witness, her being "crossed at love." The prosecution argued she was faking it. Reports are the public didn't buy into her plea, but the jury did. It took them all of five minutes to acquit her. Among those who supported her was a woman noted for instability issues of her own, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, who sent her flowers while she was in jail. $450.

Nicholas Hill was a notable barrister in his day. He was born in Florida, New York, in 1805, began practicing law at the age of 24 in Saratoga, and in 1840 moved to Albany where, for five years, he was the reporter for the New York Supreme Court. He died in 1859, respected and bereaved by his associates. However, his career was not sufficiently important to generate a lasting reputation, so you may pick up the almost one and a half century-old Memoir of Nicholas Hill for a mere $40.

Rare Book Monthly

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