Antiquarian Legal Works from The Lawbook Exchange
By Michael Stillman
The Lawbook Exchange has printed its Catalogue 59 of Law and Legal History. Recent Acquisitions. It includes both antiquarian books and some recent Lawbook publications. Along with civil legal texts, this catalogue includes many on ecclesiastical law from centuries ago, and even Roman law from millennia ago. While the majority of these books could be described as legalistic and technical in nature, there are some that will appeal to those of a less lawyerly mind. We will describe a few, with emphasis on the latter.
Item 15 offers two works of legal incunabula, bound together. These are explanations by the 14th century professor and scholar Giovanni D'Andrea of canon law. The first, Liber Extus Decretalium, consists of law promulgated during the papacy of Boniface VIII (1294-1303), the second Clementinae Constititiones, of Pope Clement V (1305-1314). This is probably not light reading, especially in Latin, but they are rare and collectible works, plus a source of detail for those interested in canon law of 700 years ago. Priced at $17,500.
Item 50 is two more bound together Latin texts concerning canon and civil law. However, these works cover two very specific topics: virginity and adultery. I don't know why these two were bound together as those topics are mutually exclusive. Sibylla Tryg-Andiana: De Virginitate... is the good one, Linra Amoris... the bad. Both were written by Heinrich Kornmann and published in 1610. $2,000.
Item 94 is The Tryals of Robert Green, Henry Berry, and Lawrence Hill, For the Murder of Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Knt. This 1679 trial was no common murder case. It was what is known as the "Popish Plot," a moment of anti-Catholic hysteria served up by one Titus Oates, a rabidly anti-Catholic clergyman. He invented the existence of a plot against the life of the King, one which Charles II did not take seriously. It all would have been dismissed as fantasy but for the death of Godfrey, an Anglican magistrate, from causes unknown to this day. It could have been murder, suicide, or natural causes, later made to look unnatural. Whatever the cause, Oates was able to stir up great fear among English Protestants. One of the consequences was the murder convictions of these innocent Catholics. This book was published in the year of the trial. Within a few years, sentiment would turn against Oates, who would be recognized as a perjurer. $400.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was not exactly the wild frontier in 1881, but there was a case of frontier justice being meted out by the good folk of this biblically named town. One usually associates the use of "lynch law" with the post-Reconstruction South, but the North was not immune. Item 55 is The Murder of the Geogles and Lynching of the Fiend Snyder, By the Otherwise Peaceable and Law-Abiding Citizens of Bethlehem, PA. Those peaceable citizens were feeling very otherwise when they learned what had happened to Jacob and Annie Geogle. Jacob worked in the local mines, and had allowed Joseph Snyder, the fiend, and a co-worker, to board with them. This had gone on for several months when Snyder evidently took too much of a liking to the Geogles' 14-year-old daughter Alice. Reportedly, after an unsuccessful attempt to violate her, Snyder killed the parents in their sleep. This led to the town folk inflicting justice on Snyder, though in an unjust manner. A quick "trial" was conducted, Snyder reportedly confessed, and the crowd dragged him by a rope to a nearby tree. $350.