Antiquarian/Rare Books Vendors and Dealers: Foreign and International Law

By Lyonette Louis-Jacques

domesday-book-1804x972For those building special collections of rare law books, here is a list I compiled recently after a call for suggestions to the AALL FCIL-SIS (Foreign, Comparative, and International Law) and LHRB-SIS (Legal History & Rare Books) e-Communities, and the INT-LAW (International Law Librarians) listserv. Thanks especially to Mike Widener, Andreas Knobelsdorf, and Jonathan Pratter for suggesting names of antiquarian vendors/dealers/publishers, etc. of foreign, comparative, and international law rare books. Please send any other suggestions or updates to me at

Here is the list:

Sometimes FCIL rare books are sold through auctions via Bonhams or Doyle.

Mega-catalogs or rare book search pages for identifying rare FCIL titles include, viaLibri, ZVAB (Zentrales Verzeichnis Antiquarischer Bücher), WorldCat, and KVK – Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (you can limit your search to the Buchhandel = Book Trade section). You can use these sources to check if a law title is unique or owned by few law libraries.  You can check these sources or digital libraries or commercial databases directly to see if a rare law book you own has already been digitized (if you’re thinking of special digitization projects).

For tracking the literature related to FCIL history, it’s useful to regularly review the Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law which includes an annual bibliography of essays and books) and “Orientamenti Bibliografici”, a bibliography coordinated by Rosalba Sorice with contributions from Manlio Bellomo, etc. published  in the Rivista Internazionale di Diritto Comune.

You can enroll in Mike Widener’s course for training in law rare book collecting. It’s a Rare Book School class called Law Books: History & Connoisseurship. He teaches it every two years or so. A reading list is available. Mike’s most recent law rare books class was in June 2016 and covered Roman, canon & civil law in addition to Anglo-American law. Bill Schwesig reported on this year’s class in the summer 2016 issue of the CALL Bulletin. Susan Gualtier, Teresa Miguel-Stearns, Sarah Ryan, and Fang Wang reported on the summer 2014 class in the March 2015 issue of AALL Spectrum.

It might be also useful for FCIL rare book collection development to check the catalogs and new acquisitions lists of research center libraries such as the Library of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (which, BTW, has a great digital library!).

Some of the libraries that have strong collection of rare FCIL book include Yale (including the Library of the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law), Berkeley (Robbins Collection on Religious and Civil Law), Law Library of Congress (The Rare Book Collection), and the Peace Palace Library (Grotius Collection). Sharing knowledge with them, generalist rare book librarians, or EXLIBRIS-L subscribers, on FCIL rare book collecting would be important for others new to selecting materials in this area. What are some strong FCIL rare book collections or specialized vendors?

Introducing…Xiaomeng “Alex” Zhang as the October 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

alex-zhang1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Shenyang, a city in northeast of China. It was the capital of Manchuria Qing dynasty, the last dynasty of China and it was also occupied by Japanese for quite a few years during the World War II. As a result, Shenyang, today, has a diversity of history, culture and architectural styles.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career? 

As a philosophy and law major, I always enjoy critical thinking, researching, and writing. My advanced legal research class experience at the University of Kansas Law School and my later internship at the Law Library of Congress exposed me to the law librarianship field and made me realize that law librarianship is a perfect field that would not only allow me to continue to develop my critical thinking, legal research and writing skills, but also give me the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise with others through teaching, research, and reference work.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law? 

I was extremely lucky to get to know many great mentors at the very early stage of my career: Jenny Selby (former Head of Reference and International Law Librarian at Michigan Law Library) introduced me to the profession. Barbara Garavaglia (current Director and former Assistant Director of Michigan Law Library) trained me and is still training me to become a better FCIL Librarian day by day. I started to learn about FCIL selection from Barbara and Jenny while I was still a student at the School of Information of the University of Michigan and I fell in love with and became attached to the area immediately.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there? 

University of Michigan Law Library. A bit over 7 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages? 

I work with materials in many different languages on a daily basis, but I do not speak any besides English and Chinese (which is actually my native tongue).

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I would say the best is yet to come🙂 But I feel VERY honored to become the vice chair and chair elect of FCIL-SIS this year and look forward to working with all of you to accomplish something significant!

7. What is your biggest food weakness? 

Thai food.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

I am a big fan of K-pop (Korean Pop Music), so I would say Super Junior’s Sorry, Sorry.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I would like to improve my empirical research skills a bit if time allows. I would also like to learn Spanish.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without? 

My new watch🙂

11. Anything else you would like to share with us? 

I enjoy reading, writing, and traveling.

EISIL Update

The Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL), sponsored by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) experienced outages last week.  Upon request, Don Ford agreed to update the FCIL-SIS on his knowledge of EISIL’s status.

By: Don Ford

EISIL Update: In 2012, shortly after ASIL eliminated its librarian position, Barbara Bean (Michigan State University Law Library) and I volunteered to serve as EISIL’s general factota.  Barbara continued training EISIL editors and I continued accumulating potential new sources for EISIL.  However, since early 2013, ASIL has allowed no updating of EISIL because to do so might crash the EISIL system, which is superannuated.  This has caused the database to become seriously outdated, as no new content has been added, and existing content has not been updated.

Barbara and Don also tried to keep EISIL alive.  During the period 2012-2016 there were a number of discussions, both with Elizabeth Andersen, ASIL’s former Executive Director, and with Mark Agrast, ASIL’s current Executive Director, about migrating EISIL to a new platform.  In addition, repeated attempts were made to include EISIL within the broader framework of the ASIL website redesign project, to no avail.  This spring, Don and Barbara felt they had to recommend to ASIL that the database be suppressed until it can be properly updated.

An article on the history of EISIL and on the efforts to keep it alive will be published in the fall 2016 issue of the Informer, the electronic newsletter of ASIL’s International Legal Research Interest Group (ILRIG).  In the meantime, please let ASIL Executive Director Mark Agrast know your concerns.  He may be reached at


Introducing…Julienne Grant as the September 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Lake Bluff, Illinois; it’s a small town about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee.  Lake Bluff is not a very happening place, but it was a joy to spend my youth there.  Exploring the ravines, riding Lake Michigan’s waves, powering a 3-speed Schwinn, and slurping blue Mr. Freeze bars (it’s an acquired taste) was my idea of fun. Imagine, kids having fun without cell phones and tablets!

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I wouldn’t say I “selected” it; it sort of just happened.  My goals of becoming an accountant (high school), an economist (college), and a Latin American Studies bibliographer (grad school/library school), didn’t pan out. I subsequently decided to go to law school, realized I didn’t want to practice, and thus law librarianship was my best option.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I was originally hired as a general reference librarian at Loyola, but FCIL questions immediately started coming my way, and I hit the ground running. I had not studied FCIL in law school, so I learned on the job. I found the FCIL work to be a good fit, as I have a background in foreign languages and an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies.  “Foreign and International Research Specialist” was added to my job title in 2007.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

I have worked at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library for almost 12 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I was a Spanish major at Middlebury College, and studied in Spain and Mexico.  I don’t speak as well as I used to, but I can get by.  My real love, however, is Italian. I’ve studied intermittently since college and received my B1 CILS (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera) in 2011.  I studied at the B2 level in Rome in 2013.  I also studied French at the Alliance Française de Chicago for a few years, but I didn’t have an affinity for it.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I just finished writing a book chapter with Teresa Miguel-Stearns (Yale Law School).  On par with that, I was awarded a bursary to attend IALL 2016 in Oxford, England (a terrific experience!).

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Dark chocolate.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

This will probably age me, but the B-52s’ “Love Shack.”

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I would love to be able to speak Portuguese.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?

I try to exercise every day.  I really enjoy swimming, but I also walk and use weight machines.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

Colleagues often ask me where my love of travel (sometimes I feel like the roaming Travelocity gnome) and interest in Latin America originated. My family is responsible.  My maternal grandparents traveled to over 100 countries—my grandfather sometimes in the pilot’s seat. Both of my parents lived abroad at some point during their childhoods (my father in South Korea, and my mother in Guatemala).   My parents and I traveled a lot to Mexico when I was growing up, and we also took a trip to Guatemala when I was in high school.

Also, my first gig out of library school was organizing a private library in a restored Moorish castle in Mallorca, Spain. Ask me about it sometime;  I’m always happy to reminisce.

Skipped the London Eye, Headed for the UK Supreme Court

By: Amy Flick & Julienne Grant

After IALL in Oxford, some of us seized the opportunity to take a few extra days to explore London. London is full of tourists, and sometimes the lines can be daunting, particularly at sites like the London Eye.  Tourists were not pounding at the doors of the UK Supreme Court, however, which made for a very pleasant visit.  Several of us opted for guided tours and also explored the excellent exhibition in the basement.

The UK Supreme Court has only existed since October 2009 per the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Final judicial authority for the UK was previously vested in the Appellate Committee of The House of Lords, its members serving as judges known as Law Lords.  When the UK Supreme Court opened for business, the 12 Law Lords became the first sitting UK Supreme Court Justices. According to the Court’s website, the Court was “established to achieve a complete separation between the United Kingdom’s senior Judges and the Upper House of Parliament, emphasizing the independence of the Law Lords and increasing the transparency between Parliament and the courts.”

The UK Supreme Court is housed in the former Middlesex Guildhall, which sits on Parliament Square, across from the Houses of Parliament and next to Westminster Abbey. Constructed in 1913, the building once served as a Crown Court and was refurbished to house the new UK Supreme Court.  There are three courtrooms in the building with the first being the largest and most traditional in appearance. The second courtroom is sleek and modern, and its glass back wall is etched with an Eleanor Roosevelt quotation. Court 3 is used by the Judicial Committee of The Privy Council (JCPC).

The 12 Justices sit on panels of five, seven, or nine, with five being the most common. Panels are assigned by the Court’s president, currently the Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury.  The Court is the final court of appeal for civil cases from all of the UK, and criminal cases from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Court hears around 100 cases a year with about a quarter being criminal, and the rest covering a broad range of topics. The 12 Justices also sit on the JCPC, although other Commonwealth judges may be invited to sit on those panels.  The JCPC docket runs about 50 to 60 cases per year.

Cases can take up to four years to wind through the UK lower courts, but can be expedited if they are time sensitive.  Cases are chosen for a hearing in the Supreme Court if they have an arguable point of law and/or a “general impact on society.” The Court operates from October through the end of July, spread over four terms.  Hearings average between one and five days in length.  One recent, and quite compelling case, involved a transgender individual. In that case, the plaintiff applied for her state retirement pension when she was 60, but was denied as she had not formally applied for a gender recognition certificate.  The Court had not yet decided the case when we were on site, but the judgment came down last week. The Court elected to defer the legal question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). One assumes that the CJEU will be out of the picture completely once Brexit is implemented.

The Court’s Justices are selected in a process that is quite different from that in the U.S., which is highly politicized. To be eligible to serve on the Court, a candidate must have served at least 15 years as a “qualifying practitioner” or two years as a judge in the UK court system.  An independent panel of legal and non-legal experts vets and interviews candidates.  The Queen formally makes the appointment.  Mandatory retirement age is 75 for those Justices who were Law Lords, and 70 otherwise.  In the next couple of years, half of the Court will be retiring.  Currently, two Justices are Scottish, another is from Northern Ireland, and the Baroness Hale of Richmond is the only female Justice.  The current lack of diversity on the Court will seemingly be addressed with the forthcoming wave of retirements.

The Court’s elegant emblem includes the blue flax flower of Northern Ireland, England’s Tudor rose, Wales’ green leek leaves, and Scotland’s purple thistle. These symbols are intertwined with a Libra representing the scales of justice, and an Omega, which represents the Court as the final source of justice in the UK.  The Court’s colorful carpeting repeats the emblem and was designed by Sir Peter Blake, who also designed the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover.  The Court’s interior is functional, but also quite attractive; you can even rent out the place for a wedding, dinner, or other event. (Somehow it’s difficult to picture a wild wedding reception taking place here, but anything is possible.)

The Court employs eight Judicial Assistants (JAs)—one permanent, the others serve for one year.  The four Justices with the highest seniority have their own clerks, while the remaining eight share four JAs.  The Justices don’t wear traditional robes in the courtroom and sit on the same level as the parties’ legal teams.  The Court’s usher does wear a gown, and barristers have the option of wearing wigs and robes.  Barristers address the Justices as “Lord” and “Lady.”  Hearings are streamed live and remain on the Court’s web archive for a year.

The Court’s library is generally not open to the public, but we were allowed a visit, hosted very graciously by Head Librarian Paul Sandles (one of two librarians on staff).  The library spans two floors, and the walls have quotations (selected by the Justices) penned by a wide variety of authors ranging from Aristotle to Martin Luther King. The print collection is somewhat limited since most of the Law Lords’ book collection remained on site within the House of Lords. The library concentrates on basic texts on subjects covered in court, adding titles preemptively and as needed. There are some primary and secondary foreign materials. The library’s U.S. Reports set was donated by the U.S. Supreme Court after a visit by the U.S. Justices.

Although the Court tour does not offer the London Eye’s “view you’ll never forget,” it is nonetheless a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.  In a jurisdiction that can lay claim to the Magna Carta (1215), it is fascinating to get a glimpse of a legal institution in its infancy.


Introducing…Janet Kearney as the August FCIL Librarian of the Month (and Winner of the Newest FCIL Librarian Award)

  1. Where did you grow up?

Although I was born in Texas, I’ve lived in the New Orleans area since I could talk. Even though I’ve traveled around a bit, I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to settle in New Orleans for the long term.

  1. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?
In Paris

In Paris, while studying abroad with Tulane Law School

I like to think that law librarianship selected me. In my last year of law school, I was an extern for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Library. I chose this placement, honestly, because it sounded like a nice break in my schedule, but I discovered that I actually enjoyed it. I never liked the idea of working for a firm (policy nut here!), and I found this career that focused on my favorite part of work: research.

  1. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I’ve always enjoyed traveling, so I think an interest in FCIL issues is a natural extension of that. My undergraduate degree is in International Studies, and I studied abroad in undergrad and law school. I spent a summer as an intern for the U.S. Consulate in Belfast, UK and was able to do some fascinating legal/policy research on issues specific to Northern Ireland.

  1. Who is your current employer?  How long have you worked there?

I am at Loyola University New Orleans Law Library as the Cataloging & Reference Librarian. It’s a small ship with an “all hands on deck” attitude – because of my background and interests, I’m lucky enough to serve as a de-facto FCIL librarian. I’ve been here since September 2015, originally as a reference staffer and now as an Assistant Professor.

  1. Do you speak any foreign languages?

    with RBG

    Meeting Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Paris

I have only elementary proficiency in French – enough to order food and get around on trips. My reading skills are a bit stronger, but I have a copy of the first Harry Potter in French that I use to stretch those muscles.

  1. What is your most significant professional achievement?

Finishing law school and passing the Louisiana bar exam. So much hard work and pain (and money) goes into both accomplishments. Working in a law school and talking to students prepping for the same bar, I consistently tell them it’s a horrible thing, but when you pass, the sense of accomplishment is off the charts.

  1. What is your biggest food weakness?

Ice cream or dessert in general. I believe there is an extra stomach just for dessert.

  1. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

It’s so cheesy I’m almost afraid to admit it, but the song Nobody’s Perfect from Hannah Montana. I used to listen to it over and over to pump myself up for exams in law school.

  1. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

Number 1 – stronger language skills. Way down the list is the ability to read my cat’s mind.

  1. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you cannot go a day without?

Coffee! Or is it considered a basic necessity? I think this comes up frequently in these surveys!

cat with bluebook

Ruth Bader, Janet’s cat, with the Bluebook

  1. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I have two cats, Ruth Bader and Drew Brees – named after the Justice and the Saints football player, respectively. At AALL in Chicago, I noticed that a lot of librarians also have cats, so perhaps people will find that interesting or at least cute.


#IALL2016 Recap: Precedent and Authority: the Continental Dimension


By: Jim Hart

Professor Ibbetson began with the point that precedent has not always been a part of English law and has been more a part of Continental law than we think.  He explained that historically, in general, common law precedent focused on law as it was applied in court whereas civil law precedent focused on the principles and rules in the codes.

He began with England because here we’re on fairly familiar and firm ground. Before the nineteenth century there was no strict rule of bindingness and no structure by which courts were only bound by courts above them.  This is not surprising because it was only in the nineteenth century that we began to get enough regular, reliable reports and a clear hierarchy of courts to think of precedents binding on lower courts.

It was only in the seventeenth century that changes in the direction of the modern ways of thinking began to occur.   And it wouldn’t surprise anybody, especially after hearing Professor Baker’s lecture, that a central figure in this process was Sir Edmund Coke.  We need to address three closely related, but separate phenomena.  The first was the practice of following previous cases.  Although this was not new and it probably goes back as far as we think there was a common law system, it became more intense with high quality reports.  It’s probably hard for us to think of the common law without this since we expect judges to act consistently and English law had nothing like the books and rules of Roman law.

The second phenomenon was the development of the idea of authority. Professor Ibbetson paused a minute here before saying something more about it.  Naturally King had authority, sheriff had authority in his county, the bailiff in his bailiwick and so on.  From the late 15th century we begin to see that some texts were considered to have authority, which must mean that they contained rules that had to be followed, just as the instructions of King, sheriff or bailiff.  As the sixteenth century progressed we find it more normal to say that these texts were authority and being authority was something different from having authority. The only books that were authority, of course, were law books.  And increasingly there was a strong focus on decided cases that had been authorities.  I suspect that the development of the idea of authority at that time was related to the differences between Plowden and Dyer’s methods and those of the Year Books although Professor Ibettson did not say so.

And thirdly there was precedent.  Many lawyers had been familiar with precedent having prepared formal documents such as precedents of pleading.  In the early seventeenth century we find special status being given to judicial precedent, that is decided cases and, in particular, decided cases where the reasons had been recorded.  Just as we would say today that judicial rulings and decided cases as precedents were authorities.

This judicial authority developed from the theory of argument by dialectic, which would have been familiar to anyone from a medieval university.  At this time nearly any text could be authoritative.  But there were two categories of authority: necessary and probable.  The best example of a necessary authority was the Bible which was true by definition and any conclusion drawn from it was equally true as long as the argument was validly drawn from premise to conclusion.  Probable authorities were things that were not true in themselves, but might be true.  It was not what learned men said that constituted probable authority, but things like moralizing fables, popular sayings, and customary ways of doing things.  This is the world of the medieval university on the continent and in England.  In the early 16th century, perhaps first in Holland, a specifically legal dialectic began to appear about how to frame a forensic argument.  The argument from authority is the strongest in law (argumentum ab auctoritate est fortissimum in lege), wrote one commentator.  The authorities that formed the basis of the argument might be necessary or probable.  In the medieval university, the theory of authority was based on a tradition that went back to Cicero.  But dialectic and rhetoric were not miles apart.

There was another classical tradition.  This one was traced not back to Cicero, but to Quintillian. And here we find the Latin term, “praejudicia,” which we can translate as precedents.  We’re not sure what Quintillian meant by this term, but it might have meant things that had been adjudged before, the literal translation of praeiudicia.  In the early sixteenth century it was said that auctoritas and praeiudicia were interchangeable terms. We don’t know which of these ideas of legal dialectic were used in England, but we do know that some were.  Moreover as more common lawyers spent time at university, they would have come across Cicero and Quintillian and would be utterly familiar with the basics of dialectic and rhetoric.  We are sure that Coke was familiar with these precise terms when he was at university.  Coke used these two sources explicitly in his writing. Indeed he peppered his writings with quotations and near quotations on authority and precedent.  Coke was quite clear that these judicial precedents were only probable authority.  Although judicial precedent was only probable, it was authoritative in court.  All other things being equal, they should be followed.  But other things were not always equal. So from about 1700, England had a doctrine of precedent that was rooted in dialectical theory.  Notice that this process began about a hundred years before the period covered by Professor Baker and stretched to about fifty years later.

How different were things on the continent?  At first glance they weren’t very different in theory, but they differed in operation.  The writers on legal dialectic in Holland, Germany or elsewhere in Europe were thinking in terms of their own systems, not at all in terms of the unruly English common law.  So the argument from authority would have been utterly familiar.  To continental lawyers some authorities were necessary, in particular the writings of the Roman jurists.  It was laid down in Justinian’s code that they had the force of legislation.  The medieval jurists were not regarded as necessary authorities, but as probable ones and the same applied to all the modern writers.  The best way to influence a judge was to follow a long line of legal opinion.  But the dominant line of legal opinion might be held to be wrong, especially by an appellate court.  Previous cases were a problem.  Another Roman law text seemed to exclude their significance saying that judgments should be made on the basis of a lex rather than an exemplum.  But previous decisions could be distinguished.  What really mattered with previous decisions was that they came from a particular court that was known for its learning or issued its decisions under the name of the monarch or ruler.  It is tempting to conclude that the mass of citations from Roman law was little more than froth.  What really mattered was the jurisprudence of this court.  But we should resist that temptation.  We should say that the previous case showed the issue behind the mass of citation.  These were all probable authorities according to the writers on dialectic.  And the previous case merely showed what the correct path through all these authorities was.  Courts might look at previous decisions, but their decisions were made according to the true law.  Earlier decisions might help them to understand what law lay behind a complex plethora of authorities cited in a present case.  In England we can say that it was the printing of large numbers of reports that was really central in allowing the increase in the use of precedent in the early seventeenth century.

So do we get case reports in early modern Europe?  We certainly do and lots and lots and lots of them.  In Italy by 1600 there were thirty-two separate volumes of reports printed in very large folio volumes.  There was a real difference between these volumes and those in England.   The English reports included the arguments given in court sometimes together with the decision that had been reached, which allowed the successful arguments to be identified so that later readers could identify the reason for the decision and understand what the case was an authority for.  The continental model was different.  The reason for the decision was constructed by the person producing the volume.  In so far as they could be said to be authority, it was probable authority like all the other forms of legal writing that were being produced.

Although it’s anachronistic to make the comparison, the continental reports had the same authority as the textbooks used to elucidate the law whereas the English reports had far greater authority.  The legal systems of Europe of this time were similar and they were held together by the common Roman law.  Professor Ibbetson said that he didn’t think that it was an exaggeration to say that there was so vast an amount of legal literature on the continent in the sixteenth century that one could probably prove an argument and its opposite from it.  There was a crying need for something like the English doctrine of precedent to cut through all this mass.  A couple of Spaniards even suggested that all foreign law books should be burned.  And we do find something similar to the English doctrine, but, in one crucial respect, not identical to it.  We can begin tracing this in Naples in the 1490s; one of their statutes said that decisions of the Sacrum Concilium, the highest court, were given in the name of the prince.  Thus it was said that it was if the Sacrum Consilium’s judgements had been given by the prince himself, i.e. that they had legislative force.  This appeared in one of the most important collections of decisions.  But it did not apply to the most important court of the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Rota, a court whose reasoning was worthy of enormous respect.  But its decisions were not given in the name of the pope so they didn’t count as legislation.  However, as the sixteenth century progressed all across Europe, decisions of courts were said to have the force of legislation.

One of the best discussions of this issue comes from early seventeenth century Portugal.  The core rule there was something like that of Naples: decisions of the Senate given in the presence of the King were treated as having legislative force since the king was presumed to have approved them.  But the king was not always present.  So further arguments were needed to bolster up the authority of court decisions.

One very important rule, backed up by a Roman law text, said that a rule of custom might displace a rule of Roman law itself since all law ultimately came from the people.  How could you identify such customs?  Decisions of the local court would suffice to do so provided of course that they had come from a court whose decisions were worthy of respect, effectively from a superior court.  Decisions of the Senate were always more or less acceptable.

European legal systems based on Roman law contained a great deal of probable authority, from many thousands of volumes, some of which were very thick.  But when we see citations to previous cases, they are overwhelmingly drowned out by the noise of commentators.  England had hardly any textbooks, but by the seventeenth century judicial precedents contained almost exclusively probable authority in what was a very small number of reports.  The continental doctrine of precedent, on the other hand, had come about differently.  For there the relevant case law in the judgment was necessary authority, which meant that it created absolutely firm binding rules.  The great advantage in the seventeenth century and today in the English doctrine was that it created a great deal of provisional bindingness.  But it was only the decisions of the House of Lords that produced any binding rules and they were relatively few in number.  On the continent Supreme Court decisions have stronger authority, but they lack the flexibility of the English doctrine.  Their very rigidity prevented them from developing into something like the English doctrine.  The continental doctrine lacked the ability to work over a very long time.

Professor Ibbetson followed with a gracious thank you and we with thundering applause.