Thursday, November 24, 2011

Semi-Artsy Projects at the CSU Law Library

In my attempt to successfully work three jobs, I have had to somewhat put on blinders for the last few months to get through this feat in one piece. The time I spend creating art has suffered greatly from this schedule. Luckily, I have managed to fit in some artsy projects into the jobs I get paid to do.

Back in August I helped the CSU Law Library set up a smartphone tour of the major reference materials (like Am Jur, ORC, ALR, CJS). For this project, I created small placards to identify these references. Although completing the job only required that I spend a little time playing with fonts, color, and placement, I still enjoyed getting the chance to use a few of my art skills. Read my blog post on the Law Library's website for more information.

One of the Library Tour placards

I also got the opportunity to create a small display for the library for Octavofest, which is a yearly celebration of the book and paper arts that takes place in October. Typically one many not think that there are many law books that are aesthetic enough for this type of a festival, but even the Law Library has some artistic treasures. One of these treasures is The Comic Blackstone written by Gilbert Abbot A Beckett and originally illustrated by George Cruikshank. Please read the short description that follows that I wrote for the display for more information:

The Comic Blackstone (1844), by Gilbert Abbott À Beckett, is a satirical metatext of Sir William Blackstone’s famous work Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769). In addition to being known as the author of The Comic Blackstone, À Beckett is recognized as the most prolific contributor to the magazine Punch. The first edition of The Comic Blackstone was illustrated by George Cruikshank, who is well-known for creating engravings for many of the novels of Charles Dickens. The images included in this display were made by Harry Furniss, who was an illustrator for Punch and The Illustrated London News. After Gilbert Abbott À Beckett’s death, his son, Arthur William À Beckett, edited an additional version of The Comic Blackstone, which is on view in this case.

Despite the amusement one gleans from reading À Beckett’s humorous prose, it must be remembered that without Blackstone’s original text we would not have this entertaining satire. Furthermore, without Blackstone’s Commentaries the history of legal education in England and America would be greatly altered. Blackstone is credited with establishing law as an academic discipline in England partially because of his extremely influential text Commentaries on the Laws of England. In addition to its effect on English legal education, Blackstone’s Commentaries was a touchstone text in American universities. By 1900, almost one hundred editions and abridgments had been produced in North America. Blackstone was also a judge and a university administrator, but none of his other endeavors have matched the widespread prominence of his Commentaries on the Laws of England.

I greatly enjoyed learning about this nineteenth-century text (nothing beats Victorian literature) and perusing the illustrations. Hopefully our patrons also enjoyed the display pictured below.

Although it seems impossible to ever be fully satisfied with one's place in life, I have to say that I am extremely grateful to have my job at CSU's Law Library. Beyond giving me this chance to learn a little more about and nineteenth-century literature and illustrations, the job has also allowed me to continue formally studying art history for free through the university's staff development program. In my mind, there are very few benefits that could be better than free art courses. I hope my job at the Law Library will give me future opportunities to work with art in both the workplace and the classroom.

An illustration by Harry Furniss showing the development of Law through the ages