« PreviousContinue »
printer; still, if the latter has not committed at least one typographical blunder, the profession in New York will probably be somewhat startled by the editor's assertion, (note h, page 33,) that in the court of chancery of that state, “a bill for a ne ereat must in all cases be versified;” a requisition with which the gentlemen of the chancery bar might not all of them find it very easy to comply.
5.—A Practical Treatise on the Criminal Law, &c. In three volumes. By Joseph CHITTY, Esq. Fourth American from the second and last London edition. With notes and corrections, by Richard PETERs and Thomas HUNTINGTON, Esqr's. To which are now added notes and references to the cases decided in the courts of the United States, and of the several states, to the present time, as well as to the late English decisions. By J. C. Perkins, Esq. Counsellor at Law. Springfield; G. H. Merriam. 1841.
This is the fourth American edition of a work, which, in its own country is only now in its second; and of these four editions, Mr. Perkins is the editor of the last two, in which also the labors of his predecessors, Messrs. Peters and Huntington, are comprised. When the third edition appeared, we characterized the work as “the most comprehensive manual that exists on the subject of the criminal law, and one of the most valuable among the many contributions made by its distinguished author to the cause of jurisprudence;” and Mr. Perkins's notes as “acute, thorough and learned, and appended with critical accuracy to their natural places in the text.” Our commendation, both of the work and its editor, has been amply justified by the sale of the third edition, and the demand for a fourth, within the comparatively short period of little more than four years.
In the edition now before us, as the editor states in his preface, most of his labor has been devoted to the first volume, in reference to which he says:
“The object of the editor has been, in the first place, to make reference in the notes to all the American cases decided on points of criminal law since the last edition of this work, in 1836; and, in the next place, to enlarge the index to the first volume, and render it if possible an easy and certain guide to the matters contained both in the text and in the notes.” One of the most interesting questions, connected with the practical administration of the criminal law in this country, relates to the right or power of juries to decide upon matters of law as well as matters of fact. On this subject, precisely opposite opinions are entertained, and have been expressed by two distinguished judges of the supreme court of the United States, by Mr. Justice Story, in United States v. Battiste, (2 Sumner, 240,) and by Mr. Justice Baldwin in United States v. Wilson and Porter, (1 Baldwin, 99); and the same discrepancy exists in the jurisprudence of some of the states; while, in others, we believe, the matter has been thought of sufficient importance to be regulated by statute. We hoped to find the American jurisprudence and legislation on this subject referred to by Mr. Perkins; but in this we have been disappointed. We cannot say, that the omission is a neglect of editorial duty; it is not perhaps likely to diminish the practical value of the work; still, we cannot but think the point worthy of some attention in a treatise like the one before us. If Mr. Perkins undertakes the next edition of the work, he will no doubt soon have an opportunity to gratify us in this particular.
6.—Notes on the United States of North America during a phrenological visit in 1838–9–40. By George CoMBE. In two volumes. Philadelphia: Cary & Hart, 1841.
Of all the books of travels in this country by foreigners, this is, to us, by far the most extraordinary. The author, either by the aid of his phrenological science, or by a most uncommon and Scotch sagacity, has, as we believe, succeeded in obtaining a more accurate, minute, and extensive knowledge of our institutions and their practical working, than any foreigner who ever visited us. Our purpose, however, in noticing the work at this time (we may recur to it again,) is to extract the following remarks of the author on the subject of the American law of copy-right.
“The Americans deny copyright to any author or publisher of a work first published in a foreign country, and suffer some evils themselves in consequence. This state of the law greatly retards the growth of a native literature, because no publisher can afford to pay their own authors adequately, when a more lucrative trade can be driven by the plunder of European literature. It impedes the advance of their own people in those feelings, and in that species of knowledge that is particularly related to their own condition. They devour the miscellaneous productions of European minds, many of them deeply imbued with principles the most hostile to American improvement, while they afford little encouragement to the production of books suited to their own advancement. The Quarterly Review, Blackwood's Magazine, and similar works, are reprinted, and extensively read, and they cultivate and keep alive the principles of aristocracy and toryism among the Americans to a greater extent than is generally believed. These feelings are not publicly avowed, but they nevertheless exist; and if the national mind is left in its present state of imperfect instruction, their influence will extend in proportion as society advances in wealth and condensation. Another evil is, that the Americans must often rest contented with the first edition of an English work, if it has been reprinted by an influential man, long after the work has advanced through many editions, and received great improvements in its native land. The following facts illustrate this point.
“Messrs. Harpers, of New York, reprinted and stereotyped Dr. Andrew Combe's work on Physiology applied to Health and Education, immediately after its appearance in England, in 1834, and brought it out as a number of their “Family Library,” in which form it was very widely circulated. In Britain the work went rapidly through several editions, in the course of which it was greatly improved, and much valuable practical matter was added. A request was made to the Messrs. Harpers, that, since they had, without any advantage to the author, taken actual possession of his work, they should at least do him and the public justice to reprint the improved edition, and not continue to circulate one in every
way inferior. This request was not complied with, because the first edition was stereotyped, and they did not choose to incur the expense of reprinting another, although, by their own account, they had already sold many thousand copies of the book. Feeling anxious that the new matter should, in some way, be rendered accessible to American readers, the author sent me a copy of the seventh Edinburgh edition, and on his behalf l offered it for republication in Boston, and inquired whether they would reprint it, and make him any allowance for it. They expressed a willingness to do so, and pay a fair per centage on the sales, but added that in effect they could not do either; because although by law there is no copyright of British books in the United States, yet there is one by the courtesy of trade; for whoever first reprints an English work secures the copyright of it to himself, and that as the Messrs. Harpers had obtained the right to this work by priority of publication, they could not interfere, even when the Messrs. Harpers continued to sell an inferior edition; and to this answer they all adhered. “I this day waited on the Messrs. Harpers—told them what I had done in Boston, and the answer I had received, and asked them to republish the book, and also to allow the author some recompense for the new matter, of which they were not in possession. They requested to see the new edition, and to consider of it. I sent for the work to Boston for their use, and meantime told them, that although the author could receive no benefit from the sales, he was so desirous that the American public should have access to the most improved edition, that if they and all other booksellers declined to reprint it, I should do so on his account, and employ the trade to sell the copies. Their answer was clear, and decided. “You may do in this respect as you see proper, but we reserve to ourselves the privilege of retaliating two blows for one on any man who shall republish it; this is our rule.’ I asked an explanation of this announcement, and was told that the copyright by courtesy is defended in this manner. If any publisher interfere with it, the party aggrieved reprints, in the cheapest form, two of the offender's own English reprints, and floods the market Vol. xxv.-NO. L. 32
with them at the lowest possible price. The Harpers are rich, have extensive connections, and act so energetically in retaliating two blows for one, that no respectable publisher will interfere with them. I made inquiries at several respectable publishing houses in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, whether they would sell the work on commission if I reprinted it and stated in the preface the reason for doing so, namely, that the Messrs Harpers continued to supply the public with an inferior edition; but no one would undertake even to sell it. They assured me that this branch of trade, namely, selling on commission, so extensively carried on in London, has scarcely an existence in the United States. I asked the cause of this, and was informed that the extreme difficulty and expense of collecting accounts would swallow up any commission that could be afforded, and that, in point of fact, a large portion of the book trade in the United States is conducted by barter I shall return to this subject.”
7.—Traité de l'usure ; par M. PETIT, president de la chambre à la cour royale de Douai. Paris: Joubert. 1840.
[From the Revue Etrangere et Française, for September, 1840.]
Mr. Petit, the author of a treatise on the right of chase, has now published a treatise on usury. The first book, in addition to a definition of usury, contains a complete history of the matter from the time of the Romans to the present day. The author shows that usury has been condemned and suppressed in all ages; and that in France, loans upon interest were generally prohibited, previous to the decree of the constituent assembly of the 30th of October, 1789, with an exception only in favor of the constitution of rent, (a sort of rent charge) which included an alienation of the land. The establishment of the rate of interest, in general, at six per cent. by the decree of the 23d of November, 1790,—the unlimited permission to stipulate for interest introduced by the laws of April 11, 1793, and 8th thermidor, year four-and, lastly, the limits introduced by the law of September 3, 1810, the temporary exceptions thereto enacted in 1814, which ceased the next yearare successively examined with attention.