Legally Binding: Book Bindings on Display at Yale Law Library
- by Michael Stillman
The Yale Law Library is noted for its exhibitions of law books that are celebrated for attributes beyond their legal text. That may involve the physical appearance of the book, or the illustrations and type within. Their latest in this series is Legally Binding: Fine and Historic Bindings from the Yale Law Library. These legal bindings may not have set precedents in the law, but it would have been fine if later bindings actually were required to follow their lead.
Over 30 examples of spectacular bindings on law books will be on display at the Yale Law Library from now through May 30, 2019. They provide an opportunity to enjoy the artwork and see the relationships between their form and content. Curators for the exhibition are Michael Laird of Michael Laird Rare Books in Lockhart, Texas, and Michael Widener, Rare Book Librarian of the Yale Law Library.
Describing the books, Widener and Laird noted, "These bookbindings tell stories about the people who owned them, read them, or sold them at some point in their long histories. The bindings reflect the time and place of their creation, and reveal attitudes about the legal texts they continue to protect. They also illustrate chapters in the history of book binding."
The books range in age from the Middle Ages to the late nineteenth century. They come from both Europe and America. The curators point out that the collection includes "bindings prepared for students, lawyers, public officials, noblemen, wealthy magnates, a book collector, an Italian cardinal, a chained library in England, the tourist trade in China, the Queen Regent of Spain, the English diarist John Evelyn, and a palace of the Tsar of Russia."
The books are displayed on the second level of the law library, 127 Wall Street, in New Haven, Connecticut.