Gavel

More gavels than you can shake a stick at! More Hammers than the London Stadium!

A relentlessly detailed new book, The Presidents' Hammers by Diego Tonus, considers 'their anthropological, psychoanalytical and socio-political perspectives'. It unravels gavels around the world, including handbag-sized toffee hammers used to smash windows by the Suffragettes. Pope John XXIII was tapped on the skull thrice with a silver hammer to demonstrate that he was dead. And time was when 'lewd women' were not permitted within a gavel's throw (literally) of a masonic lodge.

This book also takes a Hegelian look at the absence of the gavel. There is a despairing chapter by Twitter's own @igavels (inappropriategavels on tumblr) about the promiscuous use of gavel imagery in depictions of UK courts, even though judges here don't use gavels.

Trying to prove a negative, the book includes some of my necessarily gavel-free drawings of R (on the application of Miller and another) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the UK Supreme Court case which determined that Parliament should have a vote on triggering Article 50.

Instead of these drawings I offered to sketch the bench itself to show that no gavel lurks alongside the documents, laptops and, in Scott (FC) v Southern Pacific Mortgages and another, Lady Hale's folkloric embroidered spectacles case*. My offer was politely declined in favour of parading our national humiliation of Brexit.

*Not a gavel

 

Still, I did suggest what a judge could do with redundant gavels:

For those daydreaming about a special honour, this is garter stitch.

Incidentally, Lord Thankerton, one of the majority in Donoghue v Stevenson, used to knit on the bench, presumably as an aid to concentration. If anyone knows what he knitted, or has a surviving artefact, I would be grateful for information.

For any judge with a thwarted craving for gavel action, this book would surely be a fulfilling gift. Diego Tonus has made authentic replicas of a collection of 53 gavels in the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, 'ones that had belonged to revolutionary and emancipatory movements from the 19th century up to recent times'.

There is a touching humanity in Diego's preparatory technical drawings of each gavel and its wounds.The picture here shows impact marks as well:

Copies of The Presidents' Hammers are available here.

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