in Parchment Paper Pixels

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226803067
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226803074 | DOI:

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When societies become literate, their laws are one of the first things that they begin to write down. At first, writing functions merely to record custom or oral decisions, or perhaps to enhance the prestige of the monarch, but eventually governments begin to legislate by enacting written text. This chapter explores more extensively what happens when laws are set down in an authoritative textual form. It discusses oral and written law, writing the law in England, the transformation of statutes into text, printing and the rise of plain meaning, statutes in the United States, and interpreting statutory text.

Keywords: laws; legislation; writing; written law; textualization; printing; plain meaning

Chapter.  18786 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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