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Law Librarians and Immortal Glory – Pic of the Week

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“Tanta enim copia est Librorum Iuris, ut difficile omnino sit viam juris prudentiae ingredienti seligere quos in quavis parte sequator doctores.” (Burkhard Gotthelf Struve, Bibliotheca Iuris Selecta)

“For so great is the abundance of lawbooks that it is altogether difficult for the beginning student of jurisprudence to select authoritative authors on the area of his interest.”

This week’s pic of the week post was inspired by the many images of libraries we have posted on In Custodia Legis in the past.  When I discovered an engraved image of a law library in Burkhard Gotthelf Struve’s Bibliotheca Iuris Selecta (Jena, 1743), (The title means “Selected Library of the Law”) it seemed to be a natural next item for the series.

This engraving which faces the title page of Struve’s “Bibliotheca” depicts the stacks of a law library with very high ceilings. Note upper right: Blind Justice, Chronos, Athena and others approve jurists for immortality represented here as portraits of bewigged figures borne by cherubim to the heavens.


























The engraving above complements the book’s mission to provide law students with a rich and comprehensive (though not exhaustive) bibliographic essay on the literature of law available to an eighteenth century reader.  Struve describes the existing bibliographic guides to the law, the various codes of law and their historical sources as well as the commentaries, title by title, through their various editions.  The work covers the literature of the Roman law, the law of nations, European customary law, canon law and various subject areas that cross the other major categories.  For very many of the titles included in the survey, Struve also offers a comment about the virtues or the flaws of the resource.  The erudition displayed in his description of the books is a wonder to say the least.

Burkhard Gotthelf Struve (1671-1738) was an historian and librarian at the University of Jena (located today in Thuringia, Germany).  Educated largely by his father, the jurist Georg Adam Struve, he arrived at adulthood with a particularly rich background in legal scholarship.  His legal practice, however, was desultory; after the death of his father in 1692, he abandoned the law and dedicated his time and the remainder of his fortune to the practice of alchemy.  This was a regrettable move.  Within five years he found himself nearly penniless and in a deep depression.  Forced to seek employment, he relied on a favor to gain an appointment as curator of the University of Jena’s library.  Struve’s work as a librarian led to a lifelong preoccupation with the problem of the organization of information, improved bibliographic control of collection items and enhanced means of access to sources of information.

He became professor of history at Jena in 1704, the year after Bibliotheca Iuris Selecta was published for the first time.  The work went through four editions in Struve’s lifetime, and saw more editions under the direction of Christian Gottlieb Buder after his death. Two copies of the seventh edition, from which these images are taken, can be found in the rare book collection of the Law Library of Congress.

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