Minnesota Law

Spring 2020
For the Record

Two Law Library Exhibits Feature Rare Treasures

Exhibits highlight the depth of the Rare Books Collection and Swedish treasures.

Armorial bookplate of the Scottish Fletcherfamily, former owners of an exhibit book

The Law Library last February opened two new exhibits that highlight the rich treasures of its special collections. “Noted and Notable: Treasures of the Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center”showcases the impressive breadth of the Riesenfeld Center’s internationally recognized collection of more than 25,000 rare books and documents. The exhibit explores a central question: What makes a rare book valuable?

The significance of rare books lies not only in the importance of a text or the scarcity of an edition, but also relates to printers and engravers, bookbinders, and former owners, who have all shaped the book as a historical object worthy of study. As the diverse material on display in the exhibit indicates, the unique physical forms in which we find legal texts can turn single items into singular treasures. The exhibit invites viewers to engage with books and documents in novel ways, as fascinating objects that raise important historical questions.

A second exhibit, “Böcker Har Sina Öden (Books Have Their Destinies): Treasures of the Swedish Law Collection at the Riesenfeld Center,” considers the same question in relation to the library’s rare Swedish collection. In this exhibit, Professor Eric Bylander, distinguished university professor in the faculty of law at Uppsala University, describes Swedish law books that he has selected as unique artifacts. A gifted scholar, Professor Bylander has identified notable Swedish owners of the volumes, as well as physical features that draw attention to the richness of these books and the stories they evoke. As the exhibit demonstrates, the books in our Swedish collection have had various destinies. They have gained unique significance over time and have finally found a home here in Minnesota.

A reception for the exhibits was hosted by Dean Garry W. Jenkins and Associate Dean for Information and Technology Joan S. Howland, followed by a dinner at the American Swedish Institute, hosted by Professor Bylander and Professor Marie Linton, deputy head of the Department of Law at Uppsala.

In remarks at the reception, Dean Jenkins emphasized the strength of the exchange program between the Law School and Uppsala University. The robust program, which has facilitated the reciprocal visits of students and faculty, began under former Dean Robert Stein ’61 and will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary. In her remarks, Associate Dean Howland introduced guests to the strength of the Riesenfeld Center’s rare books collection and drew attention to the depth of research conducted by Professor Bylander in preparing his exhibit. Professor Bylander discussed the importance of the exchange experience in his own career, and the joy of uncovering new information about notable volumes in the Riesenfeld Center’s Swedish collection.

At the dinner, which celebrated the ties between Minnesota and Uppsala and honored faculty who have participated in the exchange program, Professor Linton gave a toast praising the long-standing partnership. She also drew attention to the role that the library has played in maintaining the relationship between the two schools. Then, on behalf of Uppsala’s Department of Law, Professor Bylander presented a Swedish law book as a gift to the Law Library and Riesenfeld Center. The book, Kongl. Stadgar, Förordningar, Bref och Resolutioner, ifrån åhr 1528, in til 1701 (Stockholm, 1706), is an early modern compendium of Swedish statutes, regulations, and other laws. The Law Library accepted this remarkable volume, which features several beautiful engravings and was once owned by Sweden’s prominent Montelius family, with deep appreciation.

For more information about the spring exhibits, please contact Ryan Greenwood (rgreenwo@umn.edu; 612-625-7323).