Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Mana of Law Books

I notice how often politicians, lawyers, deans, faculty and even people completely unaffiliated with the law have their portrait made in front of law books. Reporters are instantly recognizable, even to non-lawyers, as official manifestations of The Law. These portraits are obviously using the image of law books as a short-hand for power, law and majesty. The mere inclusion of the books behind the person gives them a gravitas and sense of power that other backdrops cannot.

I find it ironic that, even as so many firms slash or do away with their firm library, these portraits continue to use reporters as a backdrop. I keep a list in my rolodex of people who contact me looking for gift books. Among these potential donees, have been several who said they wanted the books to decorate their office. Although they planned to do all their research online, they wanted the books for instant status as scholars of the law.

The books have become a source of Mana –

... an impersonal force or quality that resides in people, animals, and inanimate objects and that instills in the appreciative observer a sense of respect or wonder. ...

... In Polynesian culture (for example, Hawaiian and Ma-ori) mana is most similar to the English concept of respect; sharing elements of respect, authority, power and prestige; however, it shares aspects of responsibility, balance and purity as well. ...

...To have mana is to have influence and authority. This property and essence-quality of mana is not limited to persons—peoples, governments, places and inanimate objects can possess mana.
From Wikipedia entry on Mana, (last viewed 8/1/07) (link)

Image of the U.S. Reports from
Image of attorney in front of law books from Better Business Bureau's Legal Match

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