Blackstone in Esperanto

This blogger’s interest in the great English jurist, William Blackstone, is probably obvious. But he has recently been informed by his friend Georgia Chadwick of the Louisiana State Library that an American lawyer, called W.E. Baff, who was a keen supporter of Esperanto, at one stage proposed translating Blackstone’s Commentaries into Esperanto. He was a member of the International Society of Esperanto Jurists and its US Vice-President; on this side of the Pond, it is interesting to note that its Scottish Vice-President was William Page of Edinburgh, a Solicitor to the Supreme Court in Edinburgh, and a very active Esperantist. No English Vice-President is listed in 1911.
The gift of the William Auld Collection to the National Library of Scotland means that Edinburgh has one of the most significant Esperanto collections. See (the first verse of Burns’ “Address to the Haggis” rendered into Esperanto is worth reading).
Baff had a colourful life. More may emerge. So watch this space!

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Colloquium in Honour of Professor Laurens Winkel

Readers of this Blog will be interested to know that on 10 October, 2014, the retiral of Professor Winkel from the chair of legal history at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam will be marked by a colloquium in his honour, starting at 9.30 a.m., entitled “The Many Faces of Legal History”. The speakers will be: Xavier Prévost (Bordeaux); Paul J. du Plessis (Edinburgh); Jacob Giltaij (Helsinki); Emese von Boné (Rotterdam); Javier E. Rodriguez Diez (Rotterdam); Tammo Walinga (Antwerp/Rotterdam). Professor Wouter Veraart of the free University of Amsterdam will preside. At four o’clock in the afternoon, in the aula magna of the University, Professor Winkel will deliver a Valedictory Lecture entitled “Clio and Themis Revisited”. See

Professor Winkel is a graduate of Edinburgh, holding the degree of LL.D. honoris causa.


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Glasgow Tercentenary Essays

Late in 1713, the masters of the University or College of Glasgow persuaded Queen Anne to allow the funding out of the Bishop’s Rents, which had come into the hands of the Crown, of a chair in law. Given the source of the money, the Crown was later able to assert patronage over the appointment, although the College was allowed to choose the first professor. The choice lighted on William Forbes, who enjoyed the patronage of the Dalrymple family, who entered into his new office in 1714, whose visage enlivens the cover of Glasgow Tercentenary Essays: 300 Years of the School of Law, edited by R.G. Anderson, James Chalmers, and John MacLeod, just published by Avizandum, Edinburgh, 2014.

William ForbesOld Glasgow Building

There is much here in a miscellaneous collection to interest any lawyer. But some will be of considerable interest to readers of this Blog. The essay by James Chalmers, based on his inaugural lecture, contains interesting historical material, as do those by Gillian Black on Exclusive Privilege and Kenneth Campbell on confidentiality. A directly historical account is found in Olivia Robinson’s discussion of use of the civilian literature, and J. Irvine Smith’s entertaining and passionate account of the famous trial of Captain Green, which some readers of this blog may recall being given as a Stair Society Annual Lecture some years ago. Bill McBryde’s wonderful exploration of Muir v. Glasgow Corporation will remind many of some of the studies of the late great Brian Simpson. It indicates just how much understanding and indeed detailed social history can be gained form such study of an individual case. Maks del Mar also investigates modern intellectual history and draws a moral from it for the future of legal theory.

The other essays are less historically oriented: but all are a worthy tribute to three hundred years of legal study in Glasgow.



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How long did it take to travel from Rome to Brundisium?

Ever so often, an idea comes around that has the potential to revolutionise a number of academic disciplines. Walter Scheidel, a colossus in the field of Roman history, has unveiled ‘ORBIS’ – a geospatial network model of the Roman World developed at Stanford University. With this model, it becomes possible to work out the route between two points in the Roman world within a given season as well as the likely cost of moving commodities long that route using different forms of transport. It does not take much to appreciate that this sort of information will reinvigorate the much-discussed debate initiated by Moses Finley concerning the economic significance of road vs. sea transport in the Roman Empire.

In case you are wondering, the answer is 8.9 days if you travelled fast during the month of July.

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A Question of Time: Trix van Erp.

On 12 September, 2014, this blogger had the good fortune to attend the valedictory lecture of Beatrix van Erp-Jacobs to mark her retirement from the Chair of Oud-Vaderlands Recht (Dutch Legal History) at Tilburg University. Professor van Erp is a prolific and leading historian of Dutch law, particularly that of the old Duchy of Brabant, though she has a broad range. It was an excellent event, starting with an academic procession into the aula magna of the University with the Rector Magnificus and professors of legal history from around Europe dressed in their various robes.


Led by the bedellus with the mace, it made a splendid impression. Professor van Erp then delivered a thoughtful oration, entitled “Een kwestie van tijd” ranging over various topics that reflected her career and scholarship. After her lecture, there were a number of affectionate tributes, including one from the Dean, Professor Prins, reviewing Professor van Erp’s career, with illustrations, and a highly amusing one from Professor Randall Lesaffer.

After this, Professor van Erp was presented with the Festschrift in her honour entitled, Ad fontes: liber Amicorum prof. Beatrix van Erp-Jacob, published by Wolf Legal Publishers, Oisterwijk

Trix 3photo (13)

After an elegant reception in the University there was a wonderful party with a reception in the garden, followed by an excellent dinner at the at the Bos & Ven Mansion Hotel in Oisterwijk.


During the dinner there was a performance by the Troeba Trio (, whom readers of this blog may recall also performed at the retirement of Olga Tellegen in December 2013. In all an excellent and enjoyable event, worthy of such a distinguished scholar.

photo (9)photo (11)


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Ancient law in Manchester

Tavola_bronzea_con_lex_imperio_vaspasiani,_69-70 (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This blogger was delighted to receive notice of the creation of an Ancient Law Reading Group at Manchester University.

Details may be found here:

I wish them every success for the future!

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Wander the Forum …


(Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Our colleagues at the Humboldt University, Berlin, have alerted us to the launching of a new digital reconstruction of the Roman Forum. Their release states:

“So famous is the Forum Romanum in Rome that it can prove difficult to get
an archaeological handle on the site’s multileveled history and material
forms. The new ‘Digital Forum Romanum’ project sets out to bring the site
back to historical life: exploiting a series of three-dimensional digital
reconstructions, and showcasing the Forum at different historical moments
between 200 B.C. and A.D. 310, the website aims to visualize the site’s
dynamic historical development; by bringing together images, videos and
texts about the Forum’s chronology and building structures, the website
also facilitates different perspectives into its history and research.
(Texts will soon also be available in English and Italian translation).

The ‘Digital Forum Romanum’ is a combined research and teaching project at
the Winckelmann-Institut of the Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin: it brings
together academics and students who have been working since 2011 in
cooperation with Berlin’s ‘TOPOI’ Exzellenzcluster and the Deutsches
Archaeologisches Institut. The website publishes the first phase of the
project’s results: it will be further developed over the ensuing months.

All images and videos published on the website are available for teaching,
research and private use (with due copyright acknowledgment: ©
digitales-forum-romanum). Written permission is required for all other
publication purposes”

Scholars of Roman law will be particularly interested in the meeting place of the senate, the rostra, the tabularium where records were kept and the basilica where the law courts sat.

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Augustus – Two Millennia On

Acaugustus (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The 19th of August 2014 marks 2000 years since the death of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Italian Ministry of Culture has organised a year of events celebrating the life of Augustus. Details may be found here:

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Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Contexts. Edited by Wilfrid Prest

Since research for his PhD, this blogger has had a long-term interest in Blackstone. Most readers of the blog will be aware of the wonderful new work on Blackstone being carried out in Adelaide under the leadership of Wilfrid Prest. This has produced a new biography, an edited collection of letters, and two volumes of essays, as well as encouraging all kinds of other work see

This blogger had the privilege of participating in a conference on Blackstone there, where he managed to link his interests in Blackstone, slavery, and Louisiana. The conference proceedings have now been published as a volume, and it is possible for readers of this Blog to get a copy of the volume at a reduced price through the publisher’s website!
Book on white background

Under the title Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries, the collection explores the remarkable impact and continuing influence of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, from the work’s original publication in the 1760s down to the present. Contributions by intellectual and legal historians, together with cultural and literary scholars, trace the manner in which this truly seminal text has established its authority well beyond the author’s native shores or his own limited lifespan. A particular value is the perspective from the humanities generally in the volume. Thus, in the first section, ‘Words and Visions’, Kathryn Temple, Simon Stern, Cristina S Martinez and Michael Meehan discuss the Commentaries’ aesthetic and literary qualities as factors contributing to the work’s unique status in Anglo-American legal culture.

The second group of essays is more traditional in approach, if opening up new research. They trace the nature and dimensions of Blackstone’s impact in various jurisdictions outside England, namely Quebec (Michel Morin), Louisiana and the United States more generally (John W Cairns and Stephen M Sheppard), North Carolina (John V Orth) and Australasia (Wilfrid Prest). Finally Horst Dippel, Paul Halliday and Ruth Paley examine aspects of Blackstone’s influential constitutional and political ideas, while Jessie Allen concludes the volume with a personal account of ‘Reading Blackstone in the Twenty-First Century and the Twenty-First Century through Blackstone’.

This volume is a sequel to the well-received collection Blackstone and his Commentaries: Biography, Law, History (Hart Publishing, 2009).

Table of Contents:

Wilfrid Prest is Professor Emeritus in Law and History at the University of Adelaide.

Aug 2014 260pp Hbk 9781849465380 RSP: £50 / €65

To receive the 20% discount through Hart Publishing’s website please write ref: AY3 in the voucher code field and click apply:

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Richard and Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant 2015

The Richard and Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant 2015

GW Law is pleased to invite applications for the Richard & Diane Cummins Legal History Research Grant for 2015.

The Cummins Grant provides a stipend of $10,000 to support short-term historical research using Special Collections at GW’s Jacob Burns Law Library, which is noted for its continental historical legal collections, especially its French Collection. Special Collections also is distinguished by its holdings in Roman and canon law, church-state relations, international law, and its many incunabula. The grant is awarded to one doctoral, LLM, or SJD candidate; postdoctoral researcher; faculty member; or independent scholar. Candidates may come from a variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, law, history, religion, philosophy, or bibliography.

The deadline for submission of applications is 15 October 2014.

For information about the Cummins Grant, please visit:

For information about Special Collections at the Jacob Burns Law Library, please visit:

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