Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Legal Draught

The stein pictured above is one of a number of "book steins" created by the Mettlach Company of Leipzig, Germany in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The series of steins consists of eleven "profession" steins and one memorial stein commissioned by Cornell University. Stein # 2001A in the Mettlach Catalogue is known as the "Lawyer Stein" since it is decorated with legal symbols and reproductions of law book spines. According to Steven Steigerwalt & John Lamb, authors of one of the leading articles on the Mettlach book steins, which I recommend highly,[]:

"The inlay depicts a scale hung from a sheathed sword. A king’s crown on one scale pan is balanced against a peasant’s hat on the other. The decoration symbolizes the principle that justice (symbolized by the sword) is evenly dispensed or administered regardless of social status (symbolized by the crown and peasant hat balancing the scale). The inlay bears the latin saying “FIAT JUSTITIA PER: MUN” which translates as “Let there be justice throughout the world.”
The titles of the eleven books depicted on the stein body are predominately Latin. They are: Lib. Pand. volumes 1 and 2; Corpus Institutionum Justiniani by Diling dated 1574; Peinl. Ger. Ordnung (German Penal Regulations) by K. Karoli dated 1532; De Pace Publica, dated 1586; Corpus Juris Civilis: Practica Lanfranci, dated 1528; C. J. C. by Gotofred from Geneva dated 1624; Volumen Legum Parvum by Venetiis, dated 1597; Practice Juris and Viatoriu Utriusque Juris. These books detail the civil and penal statutes which prescribe the code of conduct on which justice is based, the principles of law and the means that are used in the administration of the law."

The Mettlach "Lawyer Stein" is not rare. It frequently is found for sale on Ebay and other online auction sites for $500-$750, depending on condition. It is also not a unique idea. Cornell University [which commissioned one of the "book series" steins, as noted, also produced legal-themed steins for its annual law school "smokers" at the turn of the twentieth century.

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