Stand, Sketch, and Deliver

Although the law is full of life, it’s a complex subject, and many people—shockingly—find it dry. That can pose a special challenge for students and teachers.

Illustrations can help address this obstacle—an obstacle created by language itself. They can serve as mnemonic devices for committing intricate rules to memory, and they can make legal study more enjoyable by enlivening a relentlessly textual enterprise with visual interest, and even some lightness of heart.

Nathan Burney’s Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law is a case in point:

Images like the ones Nathan created are the subject of the next stop on our digital gallery tour: our case “Teaching the Law.” And they’re significant not simply for law students.

They play especially important role in books for children and young adults by nurturing their emotional attachment to the legal system, helping them imagine themselves as actors in the rule of law.


They also can help bring critical legal information to marginalized communities and to legal outsiders of all kinds—including hippies:

Maybe that’s why textbooks are the genre of law books that have seen the longest continuous use of images, going back to the Middle Ages.

What’s with the ape and the wolves that start this post? They’re details from a larger image in a seventeenth-century book by Johannes Bunno, the creator of the “emblematic teaching method,” in which pictures and allegories are used as mnemonic devices.

Here’s the complete image:

And here are some other choice details:

The subject of Buno’s surreal illustration? Justinian’s Institutes. The book also contains 1400 questions and answers about the Institutes produced for Buno’s students at the St. Michaeli Gymnasium near Hannover.

We encourage you to expand the full image and look closely. It’s probably the strangest thing we have in the exhibit.

Happy memorizing! Quiz tomorrow.


Johannes Buno, Memoriale Institutionum juris. Ratzeburg: Nicolaus Nissen, 1672. Foreign Law Collection of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Mark S. Weiner & Mike Widener


Next up: “Laughing—and Crying—at the Law.”


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