July 14, 2010
Holmes' The Common Law in Annotated form; summer reading before law school begins
Posted by Alan Childress
A brief follow-up to my post last week on The Common Law, in which I trashed current online and digital versions of the book for being poorly scanned and never proofread, incomplete and unusable. So I published a cheap one that is in fact the words Holmes wrote, mainly for Amazon Kindle and its free apps for iPad, PCs, Mac, BB, and smart phones.
Now, I also published to Kindle (and also ePub for Nook and Apple, a Sony one, and active PDF and simple rtf formats for just computers without apps, all at Smashwords) a much-expanded version, annotated, which includes some 200 of my notes inserted to explain what Holmes meant and underlying legal terms he uses. There is a need for noted-and-demystified versions of many old but still-great books in law, philosophy, and social sciences, and so I welcome manuscript ideas a reader may have. For example, I know Jeff could take some great work by Kant and insert his decoding notes into it, and Patrick S. O'Donnell could do the same for other works of classic philosophy and religion (yes, P, we'd do it in paperback too and kill trees). Mainly this involved my sharing with a reader what I already knew but would be foreign to college students and 1Ls. In the case of Holmes, sometimes that was just translating his words from older dialect that I recognized from growing up with old Southern people! You see annotated Shakespeare and Cervantes, so I welcome proposals for the same in law, etc.
This is also a follow-up to the post we had a couple years back , The Summer Before Law School?, on good books to read the summer between college and the start of 1L. Lots of school websites and others have such lists, including a really extensive and insightful one by Tulane's Susan Krinsky to incoming law students, which includes fun fiction:
To the extent such lists do not include The Common Law, even though it's one of the best law books ever and Holmes surveys the field of basic 1L classes like crim, torts, and contracts (still great on consideration, on versions of crim and tortious intent, and on the reasonable person test), I think it is because the work is considered a tough read. It uses dated language plus some Latin and even Greek, while assuming a familiarity with legal concepts that 1L readers would not yet have (e.g., what's "an action in case"? a law-bound student would wonder). I hope that I have decoded it and accessibilized it for that use, and for others in college and law school classes, as the book is actually very helpful and understandable to a wide audience if there are just some little insertions and pointers along the way. The annotated edition is cheap, too, and includes simple PDF and online versions.
UPDATE: Since this site is linking all the front matter and into chapter one as a free sample, have at it. It includes my foreword and the bio of Holmes, his extensive plan for the book, and three of my annotations in ch. 1 so you can see what they do for it.
Also now out at Smashwords are three great books I have brought back from paperback purgatory to go ebook: Jerold Auerbach, Jacob's Voices: Reflections of a Wandering American Jew; Joel Handler, Law and the Search for Community; Kitty Calavita, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration and the INS. These will be on Amazon by next week. UPDATE 2: They are now on Amazon and links are Auerbach . . . Calavita . . . Handler. See also Lisa Webley and her Dissertation on legal profession in UK in divorce cases, at Amazon and Smashy.
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