7th ed

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Nov 14 03:13:15 UTC 1999

On Sat, 13 Nov 1999, Bethany K. Dumas wrote:

> $74.69. I am eager to read and see why Fred thinks it is light years
> better than the 6th.

I thought the deficiencies of the pre-Bryan Garner editions of Black's
were obvious and well-known.  They basically lack information on variant
spellings, parts of speech, inflected forms, etymologies, field labels,
usage labels and notes, derivatives, synonym notes, and illustrative
citations.  They are filled with what David Mellinkoff has called "scraps
of what is said to be law -- Anglo-Saxon law, Hindu, Japanese, Jewish,
Greek, Spanish, French, Roman, canon, ecclesiastical, civil, and something
called 'Old European' law," "disembodied snatches of law French and
Latin," "claptrap from the feudal system ... the armor, the weapons, the
ancient customs.  Page after page of trivia," as well as general terms of
well-known meaning, such as "garden," "horsepower," "martini," and "sex."
On the other hand, the pre-Garner Black's omitted newer (i.e.,
20th-century) vocabulary such as "genocide" or "victimless crime."

Most importantly, Black's definitions relied heavily on undiscriminating
collection of judicial authority as opposed to clear, concise definitions
based on available evidence of overall usage, and often failed to indicate
the range of meanings of a term.

My article, "Linguistic Applications of LEXIS and WESTLAW," 30 Jurimetrics
Journal 147 (1990) has a fuller discussion of all this.

> Also -- I am in the market for editions 1-4 if they are in reasonably good
> condition and reasonably priced (I went through law school on 5, then
> bought 6 when it came out).

The first edition is a rare book that you won't obtain so easily, but Law
Book Exchange has reprinted it (I think they reprinted the second edition
as well).

Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

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