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hand; and, with the full concurrence of the proprietors of the copyright, he has excised much antiquarian matter, and replaced it by chapters on various branches of the law, which have assumed great importance since Blackstone wrote his celebrated treatise. Thus, for example, the Law of Contract, which was treated so briefly by Blackstone, and which, even in the former editions of Stephen, was unduly compressed, has received treatment more adequate to its prominence in modern law; Dr. J. M. Gover having practically re-written this part of the Work, which now contains a comprehensive treatment of the elements of the subject. To this part of the Work has also been added a short new section on the important subject of Bills of Sale; and, in the
volume, the passages relating to the Employers' Liability Act, and the Workmen's Compensation Acts, have been very carefully revised and expanded,
A similar treatment has been accorded to the equally important subject of Equity. Blackstone, a common-lawyer, treated Equity very briefly, as a mere ancillary and procedural excrescence upon the rules of the common law. It is doubtful whether this course was justifiable, even when Blackstone wrote; it certainly cannot be justified, now that the efforts of the old Court of Chancery and its successors have built up an elaborate system of substantive law, which, despite the Judicature Acts, is still a distinct branch of our jurisprudence. It is true, that this system of substantive law grew originally out of procedural remedies; and this fact has been recognised by the retention of Stephen's chapter on Equity in its Relation to Law, substantially in its original form. But, following upon this chapter, will be found four entirely new chapters, contributed by Mr. J. A. Strahan, in which the substantive rules of Equity are reproduced, in simple and comprehensive manner, for the benefit of students.
On the other hand, certain parts of the Work, which have now become of a purely antiquarian character, have been omitted. The Editor would be the last to deny the value of the historical method, in dealing with the elements of our legal system; but it is better to reserve the application of that method to those parts of the law which have at the present day practical importance, than to attempt to extend it, in an elementary work, to obsolete subjects. The beginner is, for example, hardly likely, at the present day to learn very much from an account of the antiquities of the law of dower, or from the now obsolete arrangements made for the civil administration of populous parishes at the beginning of the last century.
The addition of the new matter above referred to, has, accordingly, been balanced by the omission of a good deal of obsolete material. It is with satisfaction that the Editor has realised, that, as the result of his treatment, the whole Work, notwithstanding the introduction of much new matter, is actually seventy pages shorter in the present, than in the preceding edition.
The mention of the
names of Dr. Gover and
Mr. Strahan will
to call the attention of the reader to another new feature in the present edition. Previous editors have, doubtless, consulted specialists on different branches of the Work; but, for the first time in the long history of Stephen's Commentaries, the revision of the whole book has been systematically apportioned amongst experts, each of whom has undertaken to be responsible for a definite share of the text. The Editor has no hesitation in confessing that, but for help of this kind, he would have felt himself unable to undertake a task demanding such a wide knowledge of the law; and he congratulates the public and himself the co-operation of the brilliant list of distinguished jurists whose names appear on the title-pages of the Work, and to whom his cordial thanks for their valuable and courteous assistance are abundantly due.
Passing from the material of the Work to its form, the Editor deems it advisable to state that, in this respect, he has been guided by somewhat different principles.
In those parts of the book which deal with the more modern law, the Editor saw no special reason to abstain from smoothing out
the intricacies and obscurities introduced by successive editings. Sentences of prodigious length (amounting in one
to nearly three hundred words) have been broken up into more modest dimensions. Frequent repetitions of almost identical statements have been compressed and generalized. The whole of that part of the Work which deals with the Social Economy of the Realm has been re-arranged, in view of the changes recently introduced into our system of Local Government; and the important chapter on Sanitary Law has been entirely rewritten by Mr. Alexander Macmorran. A similar course has been adopted with the chapter on the Conveyancing and Settled Land Acts, it having been thought well to retain, for the present at least, à separate treatment of these modern features in our Real Property system.
But it is to be noted, that full references to the appropriate provisions of these Acts will also be found in the chapters dealing with the general subject of Land Law,
On the other hand, in those portions of the Work which more closely reproduce the original text of Blackstone, the changes made by the Editor are of a distinctly conservative character.
Whatever may have been Blackstone's faults, he was a master of style; and a careful study of the alterations made in his language by successive editors has generally resulted in an increased respect for Blackstone's original version. In some cases, changes appear to have been made from the mere wanton desire of change, usually with disastrous results; and in all these instances, where they have come under his notice, the Editor has restored the original text. An unhappy tradition of a past generation held that a law book ought to be unreadable; it is largely to Blackstone that we owe a healthier tone in modern opinion.
In minor matters, much has been done in the present edition to lighten the labour of readers, and especially of students. It seems to be quite time that the efforts of the Legislature in reforming the mechanism of Acts of Parliament should receive recognition; and, accordingly, the official short titles of Statutes have been substituted for the quotations by the regnal year and chapter, which latter will, however, be found in the Table printed in the first volume. Another useful reform, viz., the dating of