The American and English Encyclopedia of Law

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The American and English Encyclopedia of Law

The “Encyclopedia of Pleading and Practice, Under the Codes and Practice Acts, at Common law , in Equity and in
Criminal Cases”was a Companion work of this Encyclopedia of Law.

Edition of 1887

The edtors of the American and English encyclopedia of law, 1887 Edition, were:

  • John Houston Merrill; v.1-20
  • Charles Frederic Williams; v.21-22,26,
  • C.F. Williams and T.J. Michie, v. 23-25
  • Thomas Johnson Michie; Vols. 30-31, Index-digest.
  • David Shephard Garland; v. 27-29, C.F. Williams and D.S. Garland.


Law Publishers were:

  • Vols. 1 and 6-31 published by Edward Thompson Company (Northport, Long island, N.Y.)
  • V. 2-5 published by Edward Thompson.

Edition of 1896

The American and English encyclopedia of law, 1896, were edited by David Shephard Garland and Lucius Polk McGehee, under de supervision of James Cockcroft.

The publisher was Northport, Long Island, N.Y. : Edward Thompson Company, London.



Preface of Volume I of the 1887 Edition

This edition was complied under the supervision of JOHN HOUSTON MERRILL.

It is the purpose of this work to supply in convenient form the whole body of modern law. There are several excellent Law Dictionaries : but this is not a law dictionary. There are countless text-books upon every branch of the law, but only large law libraries can supply them all. Even in libraries the very wealth of material is confusing. Chief-Justice Sharswood once remarked, “The difficulty, in our profession, is not so much to know the law, as to know where to find it.”The investigations of those
engaged upon this work have led to the belief that it will be practicable to produce within the compass of competitively few volumes a real Encyclopaedia of Law. In so novel an undertaking
the plan adopted should be entitled to explanation and consideration.

Even the best text-books devote valuable space to what is of little practical use to the profession. Page after page of argument, of the author’s individual opinion, or of comparison of cases, the busy lawyer seldom reads. His search is for the fountain leads of the law,-the cases themselves. However much he may respect, and on occasion carefully study, the arguments and opinions of the text-writer, the chief daily use of his library of Textbooks is as digests to the cases. It is therefore believed that among books which are the products of the ablest minds, and the results of years of study, a practical Law library of accepted principles of law, supported by the citation of many if not of all the cases on the various subjects, will have its place. The accomplishment of this purpose within a reasonable compass involved a modification of the style in which most text-books are written.
The whole body of the law is divided into such titles as seem capable of separate treatment. In the choice of these, prominence has been given to subjects upon which no text-book has been
written, or which have received only incidental and perhaps meagre treatment in standard works.

Every title which is not practical, or which belongs to the obsolete or purely local law, is rejected.
In the subdivision of branches of the law the effort has been to make the arrangement of the work really alphabetical. Thus, instead of devoting a volume to the subject of “Corporations”, for
example, what belongs to that law will be found under such heads as Amotion, Beneficial or Benevolent Associations, Building Associations, Stock Assessment, Stock Transfer, etc. So the reader need not search through a long title on “Insurance”to find a special treatment of Accident Insurance, nor through such titles as Deeds, Mortgages, etc., for the law of Acknowledgments. In the preparation of an article a careful and logical analysis is first insisted upon. This forms a summary of what follows -and makes reference to the sub-headings easier. Further subdivisions in the notes are marked by catchwords at the beginning of paragraphs. The text itself is made as
concise as a full and clear statement of the law will allow, the aim being to use not one unnecessary word, and to have the text occupy but a small portion of each page. The bulk of the work consists of notes. They fill so large a proportion of the space as to make the amount of material in a volume very large. They differ from the ordinary text-book notes in being much more than simple collections of cases which must be examined to determine the correctness of the statements in the text. A short summary of the facts of a case, an extract from an opinion, or the writer’s own
synopsis of the points decided will often furnish to the reader who has not time or opportunity to examine the report itself, all that he desires. In the skill and accuracy with which this is done will
lie much of the value of the work. The space gained by these peculiarities of style makes possible a very complete collection of cases upon each topic treated. Where the cases upon a given point
are so numerous as to render a selection necessary, choice is made of such examples as will put the local practitioner in possession of the line of decisions of special value to him. The citations are
made with great care, the aim being to collate as many of the cases as is possible, and particularly to secure all the leading and latest cases up to the date ,of publication. Conflicting decisions
are noted and, if possible, the views held in the different States (of the United States) pointed out.

Appended to every article of any length will be found a list of such text-books, law articles, notes to series of annotated reports, etc., as have been used in its preparation, which will serve the double purpose of making proper acknowledgment to authors and referring the reader to all sources of information.

A feature of the work which seems worthy of particular mention is the collection of adjudged words and phrases. Many of these will be found valuable as presenting an authoritative definition
of the legal meaning of words and phrases.

The novelty of the plan and, it is believed, its practicability will be conceded. The work must speak for itself. It is only fair, however, to those engaged upon the undertaking, that the Editor should add a word of explanation. While the work only professes to be a compilation, and all original ideas and personal opinions are rigidly excluded, there is room left for the display of much literary skill in the selection and arrangement of material, and for the exercise of great industry and intelligence in opening up paths through what have proved in many cases to be almost untraded fields. If the profession find in this work a value commensurate with the diligence and care bestowed upon it by a staff of writers most of whom have already met with a favorable reception, and some of whom have taken high rank as authorities upon particular branches, the credit is due to them.

Preface to the 2nd. Edition

The Volume I, Second Edition, was edited by DAVID S. GARLAND and LUCIUS P. McGEHEE, under the supervision of

London : C. D. CAZENOVE. 26 Henrietta Street

As the series was nearing completion it became a question
as to how the work could best be kept abreast of the courts, and its
value and usefulness preserved and, if possible, enhanced. There were
but two methods worthy of consideration in which, by any possibility,
this end could be attained : the first, by supplemental volumes, the ordinary
but cumbrous and altogether unsatisfactory plan employed in continuing
digests; the second, by a complete revision, issuing about three
volumes annually. After mature deliberation, the latter method was resolved
upon as being the more consistent with economy and convenience to
the profession, and thoroughness and accuracy in the presentation of the law.
It is a source of gratification to know that this course has the unqualified
approval of eminent members of the bench and bar throughout the country .
In the work of revision, the plan of the original will be pursued. Each
treatise will be accompanied by a logical and orderly synopsis, which will
subserve the twofold purpose of indicating the scope of the title and
facilitating the examination of any particular branch of the subject treated.
In connection with each treatise there will also be found a carefully prepared
table of cross-references. The value and importance of this feature
cannot be too highly estimated. By this means the reader is enabled to
trace those parts of large and fruitful topics which, being worthy and susceptible
of separate discussion, constitute independent titles; also to find
other subjects more or less intimately related. It possesses the additional
merit of lessening the likelihood of duplication of treatment.
The text will contain in clear and accurate form the principles of law
involved, which, in the notes, will be supported by an exhaustive citation
of authorities, and exemplified and fortified by concrete instances and apt
quotations drawn from the cases. At the same time, theories and lengthy
discussions will be studiously avoided.
In both text and notes black-letter headlines will be liberally used. The
practical utility of this feature as a means of facilitating reference is patent.
The citations will be grouped by states in their alphabetical order, each
list being preceded by the name of the state. This will be of great assistance to the lawyer in his search for the decisions of his own courts in the preparation
of briefs. Not only are the cases of this country , both state and
Federal, and of England, exhaustively collected and thus arranged, but also
the adjudications of the Canadian and other Provincial courts.
It is believed that the scheme of verification in operation is the best
yet devised. Every citation is copied on a card and twice compared with
the original report by different corps of trained verifiers. This is a tedious
and expensive process, but it is one which insures absolute accuracy
in the references.
The thoroughness which characterizes the revision in the matter of citations
may best be shown by a comparison of the treatises of the new edition
with the corresponding ones in the old. Thus, the article “Abstract of
Title” in the new contains 269 citations as against 38 in the old; “Abduction” ,
609 as against 87; “Accounts” , 1244 as against 591; “Acknowledgments” ,
4070 as against 1425; “Admissions” , 3854 as against 11 15. The
comparison might be pursued still further with similar results. This is
no reflection upon the first series, as every article therein far exceeded in
citations any other treatise on the same subject. It shows, rather, that
with ten years of experience new and improved methods of discovering
authorities have been developed, and, also, that within that period a great
body of case law has arisen.
Particular attention is invited to the exhaustive collection of words and
phrases. This matter has never received treatment, at the hands of legal
writers, commensurate with its importance. Until quite recently, no attempt
had been made to index the definitions in the reports or gather them in the
digests. The publishers have engaged a large force to search the reports of
this country, England, and Canada, page by page, for every word and phrase
that has been judicially defined.

With this wealth of material at command, it is confidently believed that the Encyclopedia will present the most exhaustive collection of judicial definitions existent.
Since a complete revision of the work was determined upon, the whole
range of the law has been examined with a view to a more scientific arrangement
of the subjects, as well as the subdivision of others for the sake of a
more comprehensive and clear presentation.

The page of the new edition is much more spacious than that of the
original, containing about forty per cent more matter. By this means
it is practicable to present a fuller and more complete abstract of the law
without increasing the number of volumes.
In a word, no effort has been or will be spared to present in convenient
and accessible form a complete text-book on each topic, and, at the same
time, a digest of all the law.
Mr. James Cockcroft, the founder of the Encyclopaedia, and the presiding
genius of its evolution and development, will continue his active supervision
of the work.
The reception of the original by the profession generally, and the
frequent and favorable citation of the same by the courts of this and
other countries, are the most flattering testimonial possible to its true



See Also

References and Further Reading

About the Author/s and Reviewer/s

Author: international

Mentioned in these Entries

Bouvier’s Law Dictionary and Concise Encyclopedia, 1914, Common law, Law Dictionaries, Law library, Textbooks, country.

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