Monday, September 28, 2009

history of The Bluebook

BB-1st ed

Some legal writing profs have been reminiscing about the days when they learned to use The Bluebook--back when that wasn't its official name, back when it was shorter, back when it wasn't even blue.

For you young'uns who want to see a bit of history, or for you old-timers who simply want to relive your glory days, click here to view (or download) PDFs of the first 15 editions, courtesy of the The Bluebook Online.

Twenty-six pages from beginning to end, the first edition (1926) begins with these words: "This pamphlet does not pretend to include a complete list of abbreviations or all the necessary data as to form." Italics were to be used "as little as possible." Writers were admonished, however, to italicize "maxims composed of foreign words" and the following words, phrases, and abbreviations: aff'd, cf., contra, e.g., et seq., ex parte, i.e., ibid., in re, infra, loc. cit., op. cit., rev'd, and supra.


The tenth edition (1958) begins by explaining that "[t]he primary purpose of a citation is to facilitate finding and identifying the authority cited. The rules set forth in this booklet should not be considered invariable. Whenever clarity will be served, the citation form should be altered without hesitation; whenever a citation would not amplify the identification of the authority referred to, no citation should be given."

Editors of the eleventh edition (1967) rejected the third edition of the Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary as authority for definitions and italicization because it "fail[ed] to distinguish those foreign words which should be italicized in English writing, and is in general insufficiently prescriptive."

Prescription as a policy continued to influence the editors. By the time the fifteenth edition (1991) came out, Bluebook editors were admonishing their readers that "to ensure accurate citation, . . . it is important to consult the applicable rule or rules in the body of the book and the tables found in the back of the book because they offer . . . detailed guidance as to the particulars of various citation forms."


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