Lecture explores rare and antique books housed at law school library


Gabriella Belzer

Dr. Eric White presents the Tarlton Law Library’s earliest printed books during the ninth annual rare book lecture in the the School of Law Thursday afternoon.

Mark Carrion

The UT School of Law houses some of the oldest and rarest printed books in the world. Eric White, a curator for the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University, discussed several of the books in detail on Thursday in a lecture hosted by the law school’s Tarlton Law Library

White explained the processes behind the early years of mechanized printing in Europe in the latter half of the 15th century. He also identified the unique aspects of individual books in the library from that era.

“Tarlton Law Library’s holdings are important for research,” White said. 

The first printed books were produced when the German blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg printed copies of the Latin Bible in Mainz, Germany, during the 1450s. Gutenberg’s method of printing, including the invention of the printing press and movable type, was so popular that by 1500, 10 million books had been printed in Europe, White said. 

White’s lecture focused on the typefaces and histories behind specimens of 15th-century printed books, and his talk highlighted several books from Tarlton Law Library’s rare book collection. White also talked about the printing of early law books in the 15th century — several of which can be found in their original form at the library.

“Tarlton’s earliest books are useful specimens for early 15th-century printings,” White said. “There is much for the serious researcher of Northern European law to study here.” 

White’s talk was the ninth annual lecture of the library’s Rare Book Lecture Series. The lecture was organized by Elizabeth Haluska-Rausch, director of special collections at the library. Rausch said the lecture series was created to promote the library’s book collection. 

“The early history of the printed book is integral to understanding the intellectual history of the early modern period,” Haluska-Rausch said. “Books produced with movable type constituted a genuine communication revolution.” 

Information studies graduate student Aizul Ortega said she attended the lecture Thursday because of her interest in preservation studies. Ortega said she was surprised by the number of rare books that can be found at UT. 

“They really interest me,” she said. “I want to know as much as I can about them.”

Ortega said studying antique books like those presented by White allows people to see where knowledge has originated.

“It’s part of our history,” Ortega said. “It teaches how people would think [during the 15th century] and how we have evolved from those thought processes and what we have in common with them.”

Published on March 1, 2013 as "Curator gives rare-book lecture".