Page:Black's Law Dictionary (Second Edition).djvu/5

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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

 


The dictionary now offered to the profession is the result of the author's endeavor to prepare a concise and yet comprehensive book of definitions of the terms, phrases, and maxims used in American and English law and necessary to be understood by the working lawyer and judge, as well as those important to the student of legal history or comparative jurisprudence. It does not purport to be an epitome or compilation of the body of the law. It does not invade the province of the text-books, nor attempt to supersede the institutional writings. Nor does it trench upon the field of the English dictionary, although vernacular words and phrases, so far as construed by the courts, are not excluded from its pages. Neither is the book encyclopædic in its character. It is chiefly required in a dictionary that it should be comprehensive. Its value is impaired if any single word that may reasonably be sought between its covers is not found there. But this comprehensiveness is possible (within the compass of a single volume) only on condition that whatever is foreign to the true function of a lexicon be rigidly excluded. The work must therefore contain nothing but the legitimate matter of a dictionary, or else it cannot include all the necessary terms. This purpose has been kept constantly in view in the preparation of the present work. Of the most esteemed law dictionaries now in use, each will be found to contain a very considerable number of words not defined in any other. None is quite comprehensive in itself. The author has made it his aim to include all these terms and phrases here, together with some not elsewhere defined.

For the convenience of those who desire to study the law in its historical development, as well as in its relations to political and social philosophy, place has been found for numerous titles of the old English law, and words used in old European and feudal law, and for the principal terminology of the Roman law. And in view of the modern interest in comparative jurisprudence and similar studies, it has seemed necessary to introduce a considerable vocabulary from the civil, canon, French, Spanish, Scotch, and Mexican law and other foreign systems. In order to further adapt the work to the advantage and convenience of all classes of users, many terms of political or public law are here defined, and such as are employed in trade, banking, and commerce, as also the principal phraseology of international and maritime law and forensic medicine. There have also been included numerous words taken from the vernacular, which, in consequence of their interpretation by the courts or in statutes, have acquired a quasrtechnical meaning, or which, being frequently used in laws or private documents, have often been referred to the courts for construction. But the main body of the work is given to the definition of the technical terms and phrases used in modern American and English jurisprudence.

In searching for definitions suitable to be incorporated In the work, the author has carefully examined the codes, and the compiled or revised statutes, of the various states, and from these sources much valuable matter has been obtained. The definitions thus enacted by law are for the most part terse, practical, and of course authoritative. Most, if not all, of such statutory interpretations of words and phrases will be found under their appropriate titles. Due prominence has

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