CURRENTLY ON HOLD
An unusual opportunity for an institution or established collector to acquire a truly exciting, formative, and core piece of Americana; similar items are exceptionally rare on the market, and the present even more-so with its established provenance.
The present 1568 copy of the foundational legal text, The Institutes of Justinian, provides a vital link between the legal training of Roger Williams and his understanding of dissent, liberty of conscience, the rights of the populace, and Native American rights. His influence, and that of the State of Rhode Island which he would found, would exert pressure to liberalize views of religious freedom from the narrower view of the influence of Scottish Covenanters and Puritans dominating Colonial religious power and would ultimately be formalized in the Constitution of the United States.
Roger Williams [1603-1683] began his early adult life as an apprentice to the jurist, Sir Edward Coke. This is not without import. There, he not only likely acquired the present volume, perhaps from Coke himself, but more importantly would have been impacted deeply by Coke's views. Coke believed in the inherent dignity of the individual. As a jurist in England, he helped draft legislation that limited the Crown's ability to dole out patents and land grants, thus increasing access to social mobility; he authored the Patent of Right, which guaranteed individuals certain rights over and against the government because of the sovereign and divine agency of the individual person. This document was seen as a co-equal and consistent text with the Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights.
Coke's ideals of the "person" were in some measure due to his own engagement with the increasing individualism and humanism of the era. They also, however,went back much further; to Justinian. Coke was known in his time as the English Justinian. Why? Not only did Coke issue his own Institutes, which became bedrock for the emerging Western idea of the State as constituent of the people, but his work drew deeply from Justinian.
Emperor Justian I [527-565] original published his Corpus Juris Civilis in 528. The Institutes form a core portion of that work. He drew together dozens of legal experts to revise Byzantine law. The result was perhaps the first truly humane, i.e. rooted in the value of the person, legal code in the Western world. He recognized the rights of women, slaves, provided mechanisms to resist unlawful seizure of property from the poor, ethnic minorities. These rights extended to resisting the State.
Justinian's critical text, expounded under Sir Edward Coke's intellectual instruction, surely provided important pieces of the internal architecture of thought and philosophy that empowered Williams to act as an individual, a person, and ultimately a dissenter and architect of a radical new way of thinking about the relationship between the State and the individual.
Williams had been converted to Christ during adolescence. His family was not religious and disapproved. While studying under Coke, he sensed a call to the ministry. But the time with Coke had not been wasted. It was likely their influence that provided the original framework for his dissent. He initially became a minister with the the Anglican church, but at Cambridge, the seeds Coke and Justinian blossomed and he through in with the dissenter. First a Puritan, he recognized the same potentially repressive tendencies of "Covenantal" theology and the thirst of some Puritans to simply swap out the Anglican State Church with a Presbyterian State Church, and moved further and ultimately became a Baptist.
His emigration to America in 1631 coincided with the rise to power of Archbishop Laud. Laud disdained the Puritans, and dissenters further outside power even more. He was immediately offered a pastorate in Boston, but because it was still officially connected to the Anglican church, he refused. This says something important about Williams. He could have preached his conscience in the church with little trouble. However, it wasn't just what he could do that concerned him, but the liberty of all; the dismantling of structures that demanded compliance with narrow understandings of God and disallowed growth. He himself had grown from Anglican, to Puritan, to Baptist. Structures that prevented growth and change and punished the individual for thinking and exercising conscience . . . he could not support them or participate in them in good conscience.
His Cokesian-Justinian views of the person and personal rights blended with a deep personal commitment to the Gospel in a way that repeatedly found him in trouble. He rebuked the Crown and Church for not lawfully purchasing lands from Native Americans, he encouraged religious integrity and independence of conscience, open and free discussion, and the honor of all persons regardless of agreement or social position. When he was removed from his church for teaching dangerous and erroneous doctrines [which were never properly detailed], his view that the power structures of State and Church must be isolated from each other and made to serve the individual only increased
He was banished to Rhode Island where he, "founded the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separate; where there was true religious liberty and a separation of church and state; and that enacted a principle of majoritarian democracy [a government by the people, for the people].
Sitting in formative process of this important story lies Williams' personal copy of Justinian, an integral part of Williams' personal story and developmental arch.
Justinus, Marcus Junianus. Imp. Caes. Iustiniani Institutionum libri IIII: perpetuis doctiss. scriptoru[m] notis illustrati: quaru[m] vtilitate[m] index additus cõ[m]monstrat. Adiunximus appendicis loco, Leges XII Tabularvm explicatas. Vlpiani Institutionum titulos XXIX, adnotatos. Caii Institut. libros II. Geneva. Crespini, 1568.
8vo, pp. , 368; 155,  collating *8, a-z8, A8; B-L8, M4; woodcut printer's device on title page; woodcut initials and ornaments; contemporary and likely original full calf, triple blind rules on covers; upper joint cracked, light overall wear, but in all a very good copy.
Boldly signed, "Rog: Williams" on title.
Further, on the flyleaf is the signature and an inscription by another important Baptist, John. Griffith [1622-1700]. It reads, "Joh. Griffith. Servus indignus inutilis / Gratia tamen Servus," i.e. "An Unworthy Servant [but] A Willing Servant."
It seems the book was likely given by Williams to Griffith in either 1643-44 or 1652-54, while in England. By the 1640's, Williams was already well-known as an advocate of religious liberty and freedom. Griffith, just entering upon the Baptist ministry, would also end up imprisoned in Newgate for religious dissent on multiple occasions. He has been compared to John Bunyan by many scholars. Some estimates suggest he spent a total of 14 years behind bars. It seems that his reasoning was similar to that of Williams. Even if he were allowed to preach, he could not participate in the structure or system that allowed the power to control and repress conscience to stay intact. Perhaps it was a conversation with Williams, or the gift of Justinian, or both that led to his conviction that the system itself had to go.
This is the only known book from Williams's library to have ever come to the open market.
Provenance. Purchased by Roger Williams as part of his apprenticeship under Sir Edward Coke [1552-1634] to become a jurist, gifted to . . . . , by descent through the family, sold to one of the most prominent collectors of provenanced volumes in America, Jay Fliegelman, then William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies at Stanford. Much of his collection was acquired by Stanford and is now a key element of their Americana collection. Previous to Fliegelman's passing, and during his final illness , Jay sold the present to a family friend, from whom we have now acquired it. At the time of its sale in 2004, it was shown to Roger Williams College and established Americana dealers Joe Luttrell [San Francisco] and Bob Rubin [Brookline] who all agreed upon its authenticity.
Authenticity unconditionally guaranteed.
FINANCING AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST