I’m a big fan of American abstract expressionism. You know, Jackson Pollock and his ilk.This is one of his paintings called Lavender Mist:

It’s hanging at the National Gallery here in Washington, and I like to go and visit it from time to time. I especially like standing up against the wall, on side or the other of the painting, and looking at the texture to appreciate all those layers of madness Pollock flung upon the canvas. I can get behind the theory of abstract expressionism, but I most enjoy the technique. How do you get your subconscious out on paper? (I might be blogging.)

Now, here is an itty bitty rare book from Yale Law Library’s collection, in the hands of Mike Widener, their rare book librarian:

This is Justinian’s Institutes, printed in 1510. So lilliputian! So cute! I cannot imagine the skill required to write, illuminate and bind a book so small. It’s in remarkable condition. The Roman civil codes are indeed the backbone of our legal tradition. What a life this little book must have had when it was being used.

But you see, it’s not being used anymore. It’s being trotted out from time to time like fine china, then put away so it doesn’t get damaged.

I tell you what’s more useful (for me, and I doubt I’m alone here), as far as reading and understanding the background of modern law. This great translation of the Institutes, in handy PDF format, that is *BONUS* not in Latin:

View this document on Scribd

Study of law is supposed to make you think, but not in a sit-back-and-appreciate-this-painting-and-technique kind of way. You’ve got to be able to use it, apply it. To do that, I reckon you ought to be allowed to touch it, and able to read it. I like rare law books in that they are pretty. But, give me a translation, a scan, a transcription, or something to make it useful–otherwise, I’m just not cultured enough to appreciate it.

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