Taking Law’s Measure

One aspect of law which makes it so compelling as a profession, as a field of study, and as a subject for book collecting, is that it’s a tool for solving real human problems. The peculiar beauty of law books derives in part from this usefulness.

They were made to be touched, handled, and put to work.

The books in the fourth case of our exhibit help practitioners solve legal problems through the tool of mathematics, and they focus on legal problems involving water and land. Their illustrations provide a clarity and a precision that a thousand words could never attain.

Both of us love these books. One of them, by Battisa Aimo, inspired Mike to develop Yale Law Library’s illustrated book collection in the first place.

Overflowing with formal beauty, their illustrations invite readers to shift their attention from book’s pages and onto a specific problem in the world—and then back again.

We note this toggling between text and image in the following video, referencing the long, fold-out map of the River Po at the bottom of the case:

The image at the start of this post comes from the first book of geometry for lawyers. The problem illustrated concerns the ownership of fruit produced by a tree that grows at the junction of several property lines.

In the illustration, the man perched precariously in the branches of the tree appears to have left his shoes and hat beside its trunk.

Look closely: it’s a delight.

The book takes pains to correct some formulations made in a great work of Barolo of Sassoferrato, or Bartolus, which we’ve also included in this case.

Next up in our gallery tour: “Staging the Law.”

Image

Jean Borrel, Opera geometrica. Lyon: Thomas Bertheau, 1554.

Mark S. Weiner & Mike Widener

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For the next stop on our tour, click here.

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1 Response

  1. I loved the theme. The books are interesting.