Welcome to our virtual gallery tour of “Law’s Picture Books” at the Grolier Club, which we introduced in yesterday’s post. Our gallery consists of ten cases, each of which features images that serve a particular function or goal in legal publishing.
Today we’d like to show you the first case, “Symbolizing the Law.” It features books that contain allegorical images of law. What do law’s images do? For one, they represent law’s abstract ideals—indeed, images often convey those ideals much more effectively than can words alone.
You could talk to someone all day long about how law is no respecter of persons, or about the importance of its being applied with neutrality. Or you could just show them an image of Lady Justice. Allegorical images are central to the history of law book publishing—and, in the case of Lady Justice, to its brand identity.
Viewed collectively, the images of Lady Justice in this case illustrate a number of trends. You can see her transformation from an allegorical image to a trademark, much like the barber’s striped pole. In her early incarnations, Lady Justice is often appropriated to legitimate the power of the state or the sovereign, as in the statutes of Venice and Genoa that we have on display. Later, she’s used as a polemical device in the literature of law reform and social protest, as in the pamphlet we feature calling on the governor of California to pardon the radical labor leader Tom Mooney.
There are a number of curious things to recognize about the images in this case.