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Burrill, Alexander M. (Alexander Mansfield), 1807-1869.

Burrill's New Law Dictionary : (American Law, 1850)

A New Law Dictionary and Glossary, Alexander M. Burrill, 1850, BurrillAM-1850.jpg
A New Law Dictionary and Glossary, 1850

Alexander M. Burrill was a student of James Kent, a famous jurist whose commentaries greatly influenced the shaping of common law in the new United States. Burrill himself was well known for his legal scholarship, and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1828, but did not achieve success with litigation; the Dictionary of American Biography claims, "He had a natural aversion to the sharp contests inevitable in court work." So Burrill soon withdrew from practice to concentrate on writing for publication. He limited this dictionary, as Holthouse did with his dictionary, to the language of the law: he isolated words and phrases, defined and translated them, using illustrative examples when necessary, but moved away from the larger encyclopedic works of Chitty, Britton and others. In addition to English and American law, Burrill paid attention to Scottish and Civil law and noted their contributions to the legal system in the United States. He also distinguished between words in current usage and those that were obsolete, and filled his definitions with references to authoritative texts, cases, and statutes.

The Dictionary of American Biography describes this as "a work of very high standard, which at once took its place as perhaps the best book of its kind so far produced…All his books were distinguished for their graceful style and a scholarly precision and finish which earned the unstinted commendation of the judiciary. In addition their accuracy of statement and definition was fully recognized at the time by the profession at large."


  • A NEW LAW DICTIONARY AND GLOSSARY. New-York : J.S. Voorhies, 1850-51. 2 v. CALL # KF 156 B8 1850 (Copy 2: gift of J. Chrys Dougherty, Austin)