Page images
[blocks in formation]



[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


In view of the fact that there are no less than three large two-volume law dictionaries now published in the United States, some explanation seems to be in order of the reasons deemed by us sufficient to justify the issue of a fourth work of this character.

While we have no desire to pass undue criticism upon any of these books, at least one of which has for many years been almost universally accepted as a standard authority, yet we have long been impressed by the actual fact that not one of them is, in the strict sense of the term, a "dictionary of the law.” One of them is, for the most part, a mere glossary, containing much matter of interest to the antiquarian and philologist, but comparatively little of value to the practicing lawyer. Another, while it avoids this defect, contains a large amount of matter foreign to its avowed object, and properly belonging to the domain of the digest and works on court practice. The third is not open to either of these objections, but so many strictly legal terms are altogether omitted, and the attempt to embrace the definitions of words and phrases to be found in the reported cases, is so imperfectly carried out that this work has been severely criticised by one of the leading legal periodicals of the day.

In our judgment a practical law dictionary should contain the following features :

(1) Accurate and concise definitions and explanations of the technical words and terms of the common, civil, and canon law.

(2) As complete a list as possible of the Latin maxims upon which those systems are in a great measure founded, with correct English translations, and illustrations of their application.

(3) A reliable guide by which to ascertain in what manner, if at all, the judiciary have defined or construed words and phrases in ordinary use, into

very me of which the law, urged on by the necessities of the case, has imported meanings more or less different from the vernacular sense.

It is believed that these three features will be found pretty fully developed in this work; they have been constantly held in view during its preparation, and no expenditure either of labor or money has been spared to secure their pres


Such merit as this work may possess in respect of the third essential feature above mentioned is due in a great degree to a very valuable and extensive collection of adjudged words and phrases, contained in five large manuscript volumes, contributed to the work from a work entitled "ADJUDGED WORDS AND PHRASES,” prepared by John J. Brown, deceased, of Morristown, New Jersey, which was submitted to Chancellor Kent many years ago, whose opinion of it

« PreviousContinue »