Bouvier, John, 1787-1851.
Bouvier's Law Dictionary : (American Law, 1839)
A Law Dictionary, 1839
|Portrait of John Bouvier|
John Bouvier was born in France, but came to the United States as a young man and began practicing law in Philadelphia. During his years of practice and study, he noticed the difficulties arising from the lack of a current American law dictionary that compiled information logically and conveniently. To fill this need, he worked on his dictionary indefatigably for ten years, intending to distinguish American law from its English antecedent. As he rose through the ranks of the legal system in Philadelphia, his duties increased with every promotion, but he managed to continue working on the dictionary. He finally presented it for publication in 1839. Like many of his generation, Bouvier used his preface to justify his endeavor, stating the irrelevance of English legal dictionaries to the legal system of the United States. He wanted to create a totally new law dictionary that would address the American legal system, so he derived his definitions almost wholly from customs, court decisions, and statutes of the United States. In addition, Bouvier included entries for all the states that had formed the union as of 1839. A large 2-volume work, Bouvier's dictionary has been especially useful for understanding obsolete terms given in older authorities, amplifying their meanings in the American context.
Jurists all over the country praised the work immediately, giving it unqualified commendation. The work is cogently written and well researched; Bouvier added copiously to each new edition and rewrote several articles, and many of the best-known legal scholars have contributed to its revisions. Bouvier published three editions in twelve years and was preparing a fourth at the time of his death in 1851. By the year 1886, when it was first revised, there had been fifteen editions. The work is still widely used.