May 24, 2022

Rare 15th-Century Reference Work Acquired by Law Library

From the Law Library of Congress:

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.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.