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Monday, May 2, 2016

Good Luck on Finals from the Riesenfeld Center!

Giles Jacob, A Law Grammar
(London, 1817)
The Law Library and Riesenfeld Center wish everyone the best of luck on finals! 

Although (perhaps) not of immediate use on exams, the Library's rare books collection contains a range of early legal study guides, many of which were commercially successful and helped to expand the legal publishing market. The most popular and prolific author of these in the 18th century, Giles Jacob (1686-1744), was lambasted by Alexander Pope in the Dunciad as "the blunderbuss of law," but Jacob's business was lucrative and provided a useful service.  

In the rare books collection there are a number of Jacob's works. Jacob's A Law Grammar; or, the Rudiments of the Law (our edition, 1817), appealed to students and laymen. It covers elementary definitions, maxims and principles of law, including this classic: if A wishes to kill B but misses and shoots C, he is held guilty of murder; if without intent, it is manslaughter. The work was still in print in 1850, more than 100 years after its first publication in 1744. 

Another work, The Compleat Attorney's Practice, outlines the "best rules and practice" in the King's Bench and Common Pleas, summarizing actions and procedure in those courts. The Statute Law Common-placed is an index of terms treated in the common law, with the statutes where they could be found discussed.

Jacob's most successful work, A New Law Dictionary, first published in 1729, combines a law dictionary with an abridgement of statutes, both important reference tools that were familiar and well-used by English legal practitioners. Jacob's own favorite work was reputedly The Student's Companion, which starts with the basic legal definitions of "accusation" and "action." 

It is too bad that Jacob is not around today: he would try to pen (and profit from) the best study aids for today's exams.

   - Ryan Greenwood, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections      

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