July 2014 Book of the Month: Law Quibbles by Anonymous (1726)

P1020565

Title-page of Law Quibbles: Fellows’ Library R.9.9 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

Law Quibbles promises to demystify jargon and expose abuses of legal practice for ‘the Publick Good’. Importantly, the treatise displays as much concern for civil law as it does for Georgian England’s notorious ‘Bloody Code’ of criminal punishments.

The work is presented as a dictionary of legal terminology, covering everything from lunacy to planning permission. Law French words such as ‘disseisin’ are defined, together with common English words that embody legal concepts.  For instance, ‘Beginning’ is explained in the typical style of a hypothetical situation: a legitimate sale of stolen cattle is invalidated because the beginning was unlawful.

P1020570

Definition of ‘Disseisin’: Fellows’ Library R.9.9 (© Jesus College, Oxford)

This edition was published in 1726, a time when the legal system was perceived as ‘increasingly exclusive, arbitrary, and self-serving’ (Lemmings). Law Quibbles was sold with other essays urging reform by improving laws, making bailiffs accountable and by ‘a thorough Regulation of the Practice of the Law’.

However, despite the title’s censorious tone, this tract is concerned more with explaining legal principles than criticising contemporary practice. The black letter headwords (a custom from which the term ‘black letter law’ is thought to derive) together with abbreviated legal references suggest that the text was intended for educating lawyers as well as laypeople.

Emma Jones (Graduate Library Trainee, 2013-14)

Sources and further reading

  • Catalogue record on SOLO
  • Lemmings, David. Professors of the Law: Barristers and English Legal Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Murray, David. Lawyers’ Merriments. Glasgow: J. MacLehose and Sons, 1912.
This entry was posted in Book of the month, Fellows' Library and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s