Thursday, October 15, 2015


The Evidence of Bookshelves

Karen Baston, "Alan Rodger's Library: Introduction," in Karen Baston and Ernest Metzger. The Roman Law Library of Alan Ferguson Rodger, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, with a bibliography of his works (Glasgow: Traditio Iuris Romani, 2012), pp. 7-18 (at 16-17, footnotes omitted):
In his essay 'Savigny on the Strand', Rodger revealed his penchant for studying bookshelves to glean information about their owners' interests from them. Bookshelves provided evidence for nothing less than
the apparent failure of universities to win over most of their graduates to any lifelong interest in the academic aspects of the subjects which they study. The physical signs of this failure are often to be seen on the bookshelves of the homes which you visit — the tell-tale unchanging cluster of French or German novels which were once the set texts for a modern languages graduate, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight peeping forlornly out from the growing thicket of Edna O'Briens and Muriel Sparks on the shelves of someone who long ago did a course on English Language.
Graduates of law were not free of this fault of literature students:
In the same way the office of many a lawyer contains a small cluster of ageing or obsolete textbooks which would allow a legal archaeologist to determine fairly precisely when the occupant graduated and thereby released himself from the painful obligation to purchase legal texts.
The same certainly could not be said of Rodger. His bookshelves combined the texts of his university years with the latest publications on Roman law. His lifelong interest was clear to see from the moment a visitor entered his home and saw the well-stocked bookshelves in his hallway.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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