Category: Law and Humanities


Law and Humanities Roundup: Holiday Edition 12.14.18

Still Need Ideas for Holiday Gifts?

What about a “Decision Paperweight”? Eighteen dollars at Uncommon Goods. What about a first edition of John Jay Osborn’s The Paper Chase? I love what the Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild has on offer, including the Supreme Court Cases Mug and the Banned Books Mug. The National Archives sells a Declaration of Independence silk scarf ($60). You can also check out sites such as Etsy and eBay for interesting items; I’ve found lovely Brooke Cadwallader Declaration of Independence silk scarves, a scarf related to the famous Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins case, and other items. I collect scarves so those are the items I look for, but there are lots of mugs, pens, pins, ties, paperweights, bookends, decks of cards, first editions, gavels, lamps, and other things that would make any legal eagle chirp happily. I even found a lovely small watercolor of Alexis de Tocqueville on Etsy a couple of weeks ago; I snapped that up immediately.

New Publications

Here’s a book to put on your holiday shopping list for lawyers and law students on your list this holiday season: Laura Little’s Guilty Pleasures: Comedy and Law in America (Oxford University Press (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Few people associate law books with humor. Yet the legal world–in particular the American legal system–is itself frequently funny. Indeed, jokes about the profession are staples of American comedy. And there is actually humor within the world of law too: both lawyers and judges occasionally strive to be funny to deal with the drudgery of their duties. Just as importantly, though, our legal system is a strong regulator of humor. It encourages some types of humor while muzzling or punishing others. In a sense, law and humor engage a two-way feedback loop: humor provides the raw material for legal regulation and legal regulation inspires humor. In Guilty Pleasures, legal scholar Laura Little provides a multi-faceted account of American law and humor, looking at constraints on humor (and humor’s effect on law), humor about law, and humor in law. In addition to interspersing amusing episodes from the legal world throughout the book, the book contains 75 New Yorker cartoons about lawyers and a preface by Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor for the New Yorker.



Cover for Guilty Pleasures


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Nation’s only History Book Festival returns to Lewes, DE — Sept. 28th & 29th

I had the great privilege of presenting at the 2017 History Book Festival. It was an absolute delight. The organizers and hosts were extraordinarily hospitable, the events were well attended and lively, the audience was bubbling over with questions. Overall, it was a terrific and memorable experience. Great start! And, to top it off, the town of Lewes is lovely.

Geoffrey StoneSex & the Constitution: Sex, Religion, & Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century (2017)


The nation’s only History Book Festival returns to Lewes, DE., for its second year.

History Book Festival Speakers

Friday Sept. 28th & Saturday Sept. 29th

KEYNOTE (Friday Evening Sept. 28th / tickets here) 

— Blanche Wiesen Cook

  •  Eleanor Roosevet: The War Years & After, 1939-1962 (vol. 3)

 Interviewed by Paul Sparrow, Director of the FDR Library

 Musical accompaniment by David Cieri, composer for the Ken Burns documentary on FDR

_________________Saturday Sept. 29th_________________

 Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart Bell 

 Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity by Nick Bunker

The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France by Daniel de Visé

Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin,

Dinner in Camelot: The Night America’s Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House by Joseph A. Esposito

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler,

The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetic, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman

— The Lost Locket of Lewes (children’s historical fiction) by Ilona E. Holland, Ed.D

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York by Stacy Horn

Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food by Roger Horowitz

The Hunger (historical fiction), by Alma Katsu

The Kennedy Debutante (historical fiction) by Kerri Maher 

The Widows of Malabar Hill (historical fiction) by Sujata Massey 

Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown’s Army by Eugene L. Meyer

The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization by Nicholas P. Money

Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective Service Who Brought Them to Justice by William Oldfield and Victoria Bruce

Delaware’s John Dickinson: The Constant Watchman of Liberty 

— Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift

Miles and Me by Quincy Troupe

Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock by Amy Werbel 

Not Our Kind (historical fiction) by Kitty Zeldis


ROUNDUP: Law and Humanities 07.11.18

News from the world of law and humanities.

Some Conferences, Calls for Papers, and Calls for Panelists


The Critical Legal Conference 2018 takes place at The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, September 6-8, 2018. Registration is now open. More here at the Conference webpage.


The LSAANZ (Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand) Conference 2018 will take place December 12-15, 2018, at the University of Wollongong. 

The call for abstracts is open until July 20, 2018. 



Call for Contributions: New Open Access Peer-Review Website

The new open access website is issuing a call for essays, articles, interviews, book reviews, teaching resources, photographs, poems, and other materials related to the study of law and the humanities (broadly defined). All publications are peer-reviewed. As you can see, we are just getting started and will be making changes to the design of the website over the next few weeks. If you are interested in publishing with us, please keep us in mind. For more information, or to inquire about publication, please send an email to a member of the Board:

ccorcos at

sghosh01 at

david.papke at

csharp at



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Roundup: Law and Humanities 12.21.2017

News from the world of law and humanities.

Some Conferences, Calls for Papers, and Calls for Panelists


The 2018 Annual Meeting of the the Association of American Law Schools takes place in San Diego from January 3 to January 6, 2018. As always, there are  sessions of interest to law and humanities folks. Here are a few.

January 3, 2018

1:30-3:15     Admiralty and Maritime Law, Co-sponsored by the Art Law and International Law sections. “Sunken Treasure: Recovery of Cultural Property from Historic Shipwrecks.”

6:30-9 p.m.     AALS Law and Film Series. The feature film selection this year is “My Cousin Vinny” (1992). This well-known film stars Joe Pesci as the cousin Vinny of the title, called on to defend his young cousin from a murder charge in rural Alabama. Although Vinny has just passed the bar (after 6 tries), and has never represented anyone in court, he takes on the case, with the help of his girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei). Fred Gwynne is the bemused judge (“What was that word? Did you say ‘yutes’?”) The movie is well known among law professors, lawyers, judges, and the public for its depiction of attorneys, trial tactics, legal ethics, and the legal system.

January 4, 2018

12:15-1:30   Constitutional Law and Legal History Joint Luncheon. Ticket price $75 per person.

1:30-3:15   AALS Open Source Program: Visual and Popular Culture Imagery in Legal Education. Six professors discuss the place of law and popular culture courses in the law school curriculum.

January 5, 2018

6:30-9 p.m.     AALS Law and Film Series. The documentary film selection this year is “Gideon’s Army” (2013). This film follows the journeys of 3 young public defenders in the deep South as they attempt to provide representation to the underserved. Anong those spotlighted: Jonathan Rapping, now a professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.

January 6, 2018

8:30-10:15     Jurisprudence:  Philosophy, Criminal Law, and the Present Crisis

8:30-10:15    Law and the Humanities: Blade Runners, Hosts, and Lawyers: Communicating Images of Access to Rights and Justice for Robots and Other Artificial Intelligence

Link to the program at-a-glance here.


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Law as Beauty

Law book illustrations serve many practical purposes. Yet they also can be items of simple beauty. Our gallery tour closes with books in which the bridge between abstraction and the real—the two polarities at the heart of legal experience—opens onto a view of the aesthetic.

In this magic space of the imagination, law gives birth to art that stands on its own.

These books gently overflow the boundaries of law as a field of knowledge and the law book as a category of publishing. They thereby pay tribute to law and to the publishing of books as endeavors that implicate our deepest humanity. Read More


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. Read More


Worth a Thousand Words

Sometimes a picture says it all. Or that’s what lawyers have often hoped. And beginning with the development of modern printing technologies, publishers have worked hard and well to oblige them.

The creation of lithography. Technical advances in etching and wood engraving. Anastatic printing. New iron presses. Steam-powered rotary cylinders. Photography. Starting in the nineteenth century, technological innovations such as these enabled law book publishers to depict places, objects, and events with greater accuracy than ever before—and lawyers soon perceived the value of images in crafting a winning argument.

Those images are the subject of the seventh case in our digital gallery tour, “Arguing the Law,” which features illustrations and photographs used as evidence in litigation. They are least symbolic, most literal, type of law book image.

They were used in intellectual property litigation (scroll over for links)

criminal prosecutions

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Staging Law

All the law’s a stage, and law books often raise the curtain to reveal its players carefully arranged on a complex set. They depict judges, lawyers, and litigants in the formal spaces where law takes place, especially courtrooms, law offices, and law libraries.

The illustrations in the next stop of our gallery tour—case five: “Staging the Law”—serve many purposes, including public education, political critique, and the promotion of commercial sales.

Yet whatever their purpose, by depicting law’s stage, the books also portray law’s character as a public ritual.

Gates and walls and curtains. Parallel and intersecting architectural lines. Legal players aligned on different horizontal and vertical planes. In their very their realism, the images depict law as a theater of social meaning.

They are the most concrete form of symbolic representation in the tradition of law book illustration.

Images of lawyers at work—which appear almost exclusively in German and Dutch law books—depict more intimate legal proceedings, and so reveal a wealth of details about the relationships between lawyers and their clients, and even about the lawyers’ record keeping systems, as here:

Or here:

We’re mighty fond of them. (Scroll over the images for links to the complete images.)

The scandalous trial of Queen Caroline for adultery—initiated by George IV, who sought a divorce—was one of the most notorious legal and political events of its day, and served as a vehicle for popular criticism of government. The image that starts this post depicts the House of Lords decked out for the proceedings.


The life, trial & defence, of Her Most Gracious Majesty, Caroline, Queen of Great-Britain. London: Dean & Munday, 1820. Acquired with the Charles J. Tanenbaum Fund.

Mark S. Weiner and Mike Widener


For the next stop on our tour, click here.



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.”


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

Mark S. Weiner & Mike Widener


For the next stop on our tour, click here.