Legal Journals of the 19th Century

Digital Collection of Legal Journals 1800-1918

Scientific journals constitute an excellent source when researching the scientific history of the subject in question. Since the late 18th century they have been the preferred medium of scientific discourse. This is equally true of legal journals which began to flourish around 1780. The 19th century saw a flood of new journals come into being. Every school of legal thought created a medium for itself, while proposed new laws prompted intense debate in particular legal sub-disciplines.

Whether for a scientific history of the law or for a study of the development of law and jurisprudence, an analysis of the contemporary journals is imperative. On the other hand, access to this information has thus far been doubly difficult: Firstly, because many journals are available in only a few libraries, in collections that are often incomplete and unavailable for inter-library loan. And secondly, contributions to journals have traditionally not been individually catalogued by libraries, resulting in a lack of bibliographic aids when searching for relevant texts.

The "Digititalzation of legal journals of the 19th century" project that continued from 2002 until 2006 has helped to alleviate this problem. In the course of the project sponsored by the German Research Foundation, 75 journals were digitized comprising 1,320 volumes containing 635,752 pages. Making this information available on the Internet has created ubiquitous access. The formal indexing of articles, miscellanea, critiques, biographical notes, etc. allows users to research for individual contributions and paves the way for much greater use. The electronic journals created by the project are listed both in the OPAC of the MPI as well as in the ZDB database and the EZB electronic journals library.

In view of the wealth of 19th century legal journals – the Kirchner bibliography of journals lists almost 600 new start-ups – a selection had to be made for the project. Journals devoted to the science of the law were given preference over those intended for its practitioners; mainstream journals were preferred over those devoted to individual fields, while those addressing international and general issues were preferred over exclusively specialist journals. High on the list, too, were journals featuring contributions on legal history. Journals that first appeared at an early date and/or were published for only a short period were also given priority. In order to ensure continuity not only in time (the 19th century) but also in content with the preceding project to “digitize source literature on German, Austrian and Swiss private and civil procedural law of the 19th century”, journals with an emphasis on civil law in particular were selected.

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