Wisconsin State Law Library

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WSLL @ Your Service   May, 2005
An E-publication of the Wisconsin State Law Library

"Keep Because They Are Old and Getting Older" -- the WSLL Rare Book Collection -- Amy Crowder

Dennis Austin, a former WSLL Deputy Law Librarian, wrote those words in a note and taped them to the cover of a book in the Library’s Rare Book Collection. While they were meant to describe the rare works within that particular multi-title volume, they also recount the history of the State Law Library's entire Rare Book Collection.

Built over the years through purchases, exchanges with other states, and private donations, the Rare Book Collection was, until recently, inaccessible to library users. Inadequate space in the Library's previous quarters in the State Capitol building, and renovations to the Capitol, required the rare books to be stored and relocated numerous times, from one inhospitable nook or cranny to another--closets, vaults, basements--none of which was fit for books of any kind. Conditions ranged from blistering summer heat to frigid winter cold, and sometimes the spaces came with “amenities” such as bugs, birds or bats. With the Library’s 2002 relocation to the Risser Justice Center, the Rare Book Collection finally gained a permanent and suitable space in the new Rare Book Room. The room is temperature and humidity controlled and glass-front wood bookcases provide security and elegant display.

However, one problem still remained. Since many of the rare books had never been cataloged, we didn’t know exactly what the collection held. The mystery was finally unraveled earlier this year when our staff carried out a major project to catalog, inventory, value and organize every item in the collection, as well as perform minor preservation tasks on some of the books. Now, for the very first time, the collection is truly accessible. The next step will be to try to obtain funding to properly preserve some of these rare gems, on which time and previously poor conditions have taken their toll.

The Rare Book Collection contains more than 1,100 items spanning over four centuries and includes English, Irish, Scottish and American law and trials. All items in the collection are non-circulating; those in good condition may be used in the library. While the library is not actively acquiring rare materials at this time, donations continue to be considered for addition to the collection. A few noteworthy items in the collection include:

Oldest item

Henrici de Bracton, De Legibus & Consuetudinibus Angliae
Translation: On the Laws and Customs of England. Published 1569
Call Number: KD 606 .B7 1569

According to Harvard Law School, "The work (commonly known now simply as Bracton) attempts to describe rationally the whole of English law, a task that was not again undertaken until Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England in the eighteenth century." The Harvard Law School Library has prepared a searchable, online English translation of this work. Search Bracton Online to learn more about the author and his work, and to view the Latin and English versions

Title with the Most Editions/Versions

Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England
Call Number: KD 660

The State Law Library owns fifteen editions or versions of this work spanning from 1765 to 1938, including the first British and first American editions. "The skillful manner in which Blackstone uses his authorities new and old, and the analogy of other systems of law, to illustrate the evolution of the law of his day, had a vast influence, both in England and America, in implanting in the profession a sound tradition of the historical development of the law." -- Sir William Holdsworth in The Historians of Anglo American Law, p. 22. You may search and view the text of Commentaries on Yale Law School's Avalon Project. The State Law Library also owns An Interesting Appendix to Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries... and other works by Sir William Blackstone.

Most Unique item

Gould's Lectures: from Notes Taken from the Lectures Delivered Orally by James Gould L.L.D. at Litchfield, Connecticut During the Year From September, 1830 to September 1831, and Corrected by Comparison with Judge Gould's Manuscript / by Moses M. Strong
Call Number KF385 .G6 S92 1883

This five volume set of handwritten notes by Moses M. Strong, first president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, was presented to the State Law Library by Mr. Strong in 1883.

Largest item

Rotuli Parliamentorum ut et Petitiones, et Placita in Parliamento
Stands 41 cm. tall (appr. 16.5 inches)
Call Number J301 .H12

This seven volume set, published in London from 1767-1777, contains the Rolls of Parliament for the reigns of Edward I through Henry VII.

Smallest item

Addresses of Abraham Lincoln. Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1929.
Call Number E457.95 1929 (currently on display in the 2nd floor Locked Case, near the library entrance)

Standing at just 2 cm. (appr. 0.8 inch), this 139 page book contains “A House Divided;” the Gettysburg Address; his second inaugural address; and an address on equality in the republic. A picture of the book can be seen on Lilly Library's 4000 Years of Miniature Books website, along with images and information about other miniature books in the Indiana University collection.

What's New -- Connie Von Der Heide   This Just In... -- Pete Boll

New WSLL Employee

Neela Nandyal recently joined the WSLL staff as a part time library assistant. Her duties include shelving library materials and assisting at the Circulation Desk and in Document Delivery Services. Neela completed a Master’s degree in geography in May 2004 and plans to enter law school in the fall of 2006. Welcome, Neela!

2005 National Library Week Wrap Up

Thank you to everyone who participated in National Library Week and Legal Research Teach-In activities and events at all three of our libraries last month. We had great turnouts for our classes, tours, quizzes and contests.

Rebecca Knutson, librarian at the Milwaukee Legal Resource Center, reported that they awarded a door prize each day, and they received over 100 entries for their annual quiz, including one in Braille. MLRC also held classes on using their new free Westlaw service, and on doing legal research using free and low-cost web sites.

At the Dane County Legal Resource Center, many people participated in librarian Paula Seeger’s “Wisconsin Libraries” trivia contest, and the library awarded daily door prizes. A poll of Dane County Circuit Court staff was also conducted throughout the week, to learn more about their library use habits.

WSLL gave library tours and held classes on using Shepard’s Public Access and the new free Westlaw service available to users in the library. Many library users and visitors entered the “Guess How Many Fish in the Fishbowl” contest; prizes were awarded for the three closest guesses. Staff also celebrated the week with a library scavenger hunt and Library Staff Olympics.


This month’s featured titles include:

NEW! Legal Writing Advice: Questions and Answers / by Gertrude Block. William S. Hein, 2004
Call Number KF250 .B56 2004

Legal writing expert Gertrude Block has put together a compilation of 20 years worth of her highly regarded columns on legal writing. This practical guide covers a wide variety of language related queries and is conveniently divided into sections on meaning, etymology, style, propriety, and grammar.

Examples of inquiries which Block has addressed in her column include whether or not female attorneys can refer to themselves as “Esquire” (and whether the salutation ”Gentlemen” should be replaced) to more current issues like whether or not the words “impact”, “orientate”, “attrit”, and “disrespect” are acceptable as verbs.

UPDATED! Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law 3rd ed. / Michael A. Bowen and Brian E. Butler. State Bar of Wisconsin, 2003 (2005 supplement)
Call Number KFW 2681 .F7 B69 2003

The Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law took effect in 1974 as chapter 135 of the Wisconsin Statutes. It provides the same regulatory approach to a broad and loosely defined collection of supplier-reseller relationships that formally was limited largely to franchises such as automobile dealerships and fast-food restaurants.

This treatise is aimed at those who deal with chapter 135 on a regular basis, deciding whether to undertake transactions, enter into relationships or negotiate settlements as covered under chapter 135.

Developments reported in the 2005 supplement include:

  • In 2004 the Wisconsin Supreme Court revisited the community-of-interest question in Central Corp v. Research Products Corp., 2004 WI 76, 272 Wis. 2d 561, 681 N.W. 2d 178, implicitly rejecting several prior state and federal court decisions
  • The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin dealt with a multi-faceted supplier/middleman relationship that partly qualified for chapter 135 protection and partly lay outside the statute’s scope
  • A split of authority that emerged in 2004 on the question of whether chapter 135 bars enforcement of a forum-selection clause in a dealership agreement covered by the statute.

Check our library catalog for availability of these or other materials you may need. For additional assistance, please contact our Reference Desk.

Learn @ The Law Library -- Connie Von Der Heide Odds 'n' Endings -- Julie Tessmer

Upcoming Hands-On Classes
Classes for July through November are filling up. On July 13, learn how to access and use Wisconsin Briefs Online. Join us on August 10 for a new class, Conquering the Invisible Web. Our September 14 class, Using LegalTrac and HeinOnLine, will teach you how to use these two databases to locate law review articles more efficiently. And in October and November we’re offering two more new classes. Using the Internet for Background Checks and Public Records Research is scheduled for October 12, and on November 2 come and learn All about Blogs: Using Blogs for Current Awareness and Communication. For complete class descriptions and registration forms, please visit our Classes & Tours webpage.

FREE Access to Westlaw??!!
Yes, you read correctly. WSLL and MLRC now provide free in-library access to selected databases from the Westlaw online legal research service. Users can search and browse AllFeds and AllStates caselaw, Wisconsin caselaw, statutes and regulations, use the KeyCite citator service, and much more, all at no charge. Search results may be printed out for 15 cents per page at WSLL and 10 cents per page at MLRC. Printed guides to using Westlaw are available at the computer workstations and library staff will assist to the extent possible.

For more information about this new Westlaw service, please contact the WSLL Reference Desk or the MLRC.


Did you know…?
The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is "uncopyrightable." If you have a question about copyright, visit our Legal Topics page and click on the topic Copyright. You’ll find links to FAQs, forms, statutes, regulations and other helpful resources pertaining to copyright issues.

Notables for May
Along with the celebration of warmer weather and spring flowers, May is also…

National Bike Month sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. May 16-20 is Bike-to-Work Week which ends with Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 20. Dust your bike helmet off and read about Madison and Milwaukee cycling events.

Older Americans Month, originated by a presidential proclamation in May 1963. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Facts for Features on Older Americans includes interesting figures such as 73,000 people 65 and older are enrolled in college, and seventy-two percent of people ages 65 to 74 voted in the 2000 presidential election.

May 29 - Wisconsin Ratification Day. On that date in 1848, Wisconsin became the 30th State. (Remember that rhyme from school days?!) The library’s collection contains titles on the ratification process and the Journals of the Constitutional Conventions. For more information about these titles see this listing from our online catalog or contact our Reference Desk for assistance.

Ask a Librarian:  800-322-9755; 608-267-9696 (In Madison); wsll.ref@wicourts.gov
Library Hours/Locations:  WSLL (WI State Law Library), DCLRC (Dane Co. Legal Resource Center), MLRC (Milwaukee Legal Resource Center)
Visit Our Website: http://wilawlibrary.gov

Connie Von Der Heide 608-267-2202 Comments welcome!