Monday, June 29, 2015

New Acquisition: Commonplace Book of a Massachusetts Practitioner

This new acquisition is commonplace book filled in by Julian Abbot (1806-1891), a 19th century lawyer in Lowell, Massachusetts. The book, called the Index Rerum: Or Index of Subjects..., Northampton, MA,1836 (3rd edition), is essentially blank, with the creator, Rev. John Todd of Northampton, providing an organizational structure for keeping track of valuable information. In the preface, Todd states that "the Index is ruled with blue ink, with a wide margin on the left hand of each page. The margin is to contain the word selected as a guide to the subject noted down. On the corners of the page, you will find the letters of the alphabet (capitals) and in the center, the first five vowels..." Entries were to be alphabetized based on the first letter and then the first vowel following that. Law students and lawyers like Abbot could use this structure to keep track of helpful precedents and treatise passages on important legal topics.

Julian Abbot did not fill in all of the pages, but he did write a fair number of entries, beginning with Acceptance and ending with the Writ of Withernam. There are several notes in the blanks at the end, including a list of legal maxims in Latin. Abbot's entries help us understand what an American lawyer at this time was studying and what sources he was using. He cites to a whole host of legal sources that are in our working lawyer's collection in the Rare Book Room. Case law citations abound, particularly to Massachusetts cases, but Abbot also quotes passages from U.S. and New Hampshire cases, among others. He also references a wide variety of treatises, including Blackstone's Commentaries, Kent's Commentaries, Story on Conflicts, Greenleaf on Evidence, Russell on Crime, Chitty on Contracts, and many others. There's also the occasional non-legal entry, including a passage from Goethe about Cervantes and Don Quixote.

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