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June 8, 2011

Rare 15th-Century Reference Work Acquired by Law Library

The Law Library of Congress has acquired two volumes of an extraordinarily rare 1478 edition of the "Casus breves" of Johannes de Turnhout (c. 1446-1492), printed by the Brotherhood of the Common Life at their Brussels press, Te Nazareth Gheprint.

Only 13 copies of the 1478 edition of "Casus breves"—the oldest—are known to exist in the world. With this acquisition, the Law Library of Congress’s edition will be the only copy in the United States. It is made available through the generosity of Julie Chrystyn Opperman, in honor of her husband, Dwight D. Opperman.

In announcing the gift, Law Librarian of Congress Roberta I. Shaffer said, "We are most grateful to the Oppermans for their exquisite gift. The "‘Casus breves,’" a reference work for practicing jurists for more than 500 years, will enhance the Law Library’s significant holdings of rare legal tomes that highlight some of the distinct developments in the legal systems of Western law tradition."

The "Casus breves" reports the observations of major 14th-century civil law commentators. Compiled by de Turnhout and other legal scholars at the University of Louvain in Belgium, the work draws from various legal authorities’ commentaries on the "Corpus juris civilis" ("Body of Civil Law"), a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence issued from 529 to 534 by Roman Emperor Justinian I. The two volumes are organized according to the original divisions or titles of the "Corpus juris civilis" and present the opinion of one commentator on each point.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

Founded in 1832, the mission of the Law Library is to make its resources available to members of Congress, the Supreme Court, other branches of the U.S. government and the global legal community, and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of law for future generations. With more than 2.6 million volumes, the Law Library contains the world’s largest collection of law books and other resources from all countries and provides online databases and guides to legal information worldwide through its website at www.loc.gov/law/.

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PR 11-115
06/08/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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