What do cows, mice, birds and bears have to do with legal texts?
According to Rutgers Law Professor Mark S. Weiner, for hundreds of years, animals have been used to illustrate legal text books, story books and books about law.
He’s curated an exhibit, whimsically titled: “Woof, Moo & Grr: A Carnival of Animals in Law Books” at the Yale Law Library. The exhibit, which is open to the public, runs through May 31, 2017.
“Many of the animals in the exhibit are symbolic and symbolic of our ideas of law,” he said. For example, a judge might be depicted as an owl, to show wisdom, while a lawyer may be illustrated with a picture of a fox, to show craftiness.
Weiner is on the faculty at Rutgers Law, but is on leave but teaches the constitutional law capstone each year. He said he came across the idea for the animal book exhibit while working on a long-term book exhibition project that will open in September 2017 at The Grolier Club in New York City.
That project, which looks at the history of illustrations in legal literature, sparked Weiner’s curiosity, “I said to myself, ‘What are all of these animals doing in all of these law books?’”
The 20 books that make up the Yale Law Library exhibit date as far back as 1529 and include many that were printed before the 19th century. He said the exhibit is family friendly and is meant to be light-hearted, “Law is serious business, which is why it’s important to find a chance to laugh.”
The exhibit is in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, in the Lillian Goldman Law Library at 127 Wall Street in New Haven and is open to the general public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, and open to Yale affiliates until 10 p.m.
In addition, images and text from the exhibit are also available online in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site.
Professor Weiner has been a Fulbright Fellow in both Iceland and Austria and is the author of three award-winning books about the relation between government and individual freedom and issues of race and American citizenship. An advocate for public legal education, he teaches constitutional law, free speech, history of the common law and church-state relations.