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1840 Encyclopedia Americana with Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story's Law and Jurisprudence Articles

Offered here is a wonderful set of books setting forth the state of knowledge early in the 1800s in America and Germany. These early editions of the Encyclopedia Americana were edited by Francis Lieber, who engaged several distinguished specialists to update and enhance the original Conversations-Lexicon (published by Brockhaus in Germany) for an American audience. The more than 120 pages of unsigned entries on natural law, American and English law written by Joseph Story are especially noteworthy.  During the time Joseph Story wrote these articles (1829-33) he was both an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, serving with the legendary Chief Justice John Marshall, and Professor of Law at Harvard University. At the time he started writing these articles he was in his judicial and law writing prime, he was not yet 50 but had served on the Supreme Court for over 17 years and was in the middle of writing his most famous treatises or commentaries on the law (e.g.,  The Constitution of the United States (1833) and Conflict of Laws (1834))

John C. Hogan,  relying in large part on letters from Justice Story's son, William Wetmore Story, identified the articles written by Justice Story in an article in the Law Library Journal.  "Joseph Story's Encyclopedia Americana Law Articles," 48 Law Library Journal 117 (1955). The twenty one (21) articles that Justice Story wrote that are included in these thirteen volumes are the following::


Common Law

Congress of the United States



Corpus Delicti (edited introduction only, rest is German translation)

Courts of England

 Criminal Law

Death Punishment       







 Law (the part attributed to a “an eminent American jurist”)


National Law   

Natural Law   


United States   


 Joseph Story (1779-1845), Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court

Joseph Story was born at Marblehead, Massachusetts, on September 18, 1779. He graduated Harvard in 1798 and was admitted to the bar at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1801.  He was a member of the Democratic party, and served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1805 to 1808, and from 1810 to 1812 as speaker.  He was a representative in Congress, from December 1808 to March 1809.  In November 1811, at the age of thirty-two, he was appointed by President Madison an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. He retained that position until his death in 1845.

Soon after Story's appointment  the Supreme Court began to bring into plain view the powers which the constitution had given it over state courts and state legislation.  The leading place in this work belongs to Chief Justice John Marshall, but Story has a very large share in that remarkable series of decisions and opinions, from 1812 until 1832, by which the work was accomplished.  In addition to this, he built up the department of admiralty law in the United States courts; he devoted much attention to equity jurisprudence, and rendered invaluable services to the department of patent law.  In 1819 he attracted much attention by his vigorous charges to grand juries, denouncing the slave trade, and in 1820 he was a prominent member of the Massachusetts Convention called to revise the state constitution.  In 1820 he became the first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University, and continued until his death to hold this position. He died at Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 10, 1854.

Excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition 

Francis Lieber, the editor of these volumes was a Prussian scholar and political activist associated with the historian Niebuhr. Persecuted for his liberalism, Lieber emigrated to the United States in 1827, and his writings, among them this encyclopedia served as a basis for the Encyclopedia Britannica and advanced his reputation. He became professor of history and political economy at South Carolina College, and was later appointed to the same chair in Columbia College. In 1865 he moved to Columbia Law School, where he codified his reputation as an important political philosopher.

The books are in nice condition for their age, with full leather covers, gilded cover edges and title labels, raised bands on spine, marbled end papers and edges, and some fraying of the leather.  There is some light foxing throughout with more as shown to the title page, but it does not impair the readability of the text. It is a very good set. For more details see the pictures above and below.


Below are the portions of the text in which the editor Lieber refers to the contribution of original articles on the law, first in the preface and then in the section on "Law, Legislation, Codes" where he refers to the contribution of "an eminent American jurist."

 Price: $750

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