Where did the Bluebook originate?

Ask most legal professionals where the Bluebook originated and they will likely say “Harvard Law School.” In The Secret History of the Bluebook (Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, 2016 Forthcoming) [SSRN], Fred R. Shapiro (Yale) and Julie Graves Krishnaswami (Yale) beg to differ. They trace the origin of the Bluebook to Yale. As proof, the authors point to a 1920 one-page set of citation rules covering court opinions, law reviews, and treatises prepared for the use of the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal by William Murray Field under the direction of Karl Llewellyn, both YLS grads. In 1921, the Yale Law Journal expanded the Llewellyn-Field rules with the publication of “Abbreviations and Form of Citation”. Seven of the tiny 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ pages covered citation formats with seven additional pages being a table of abbreviations. (A second version of the “Abbreviations and Form of Citation” pamphlet containing only minor additions was printed in 1924.)

Following Yale’s lead in what we would call today, the uniform citation movement, Harvard Law School produced its own guide for the Harvard Law Review editioral staff in 1922, “Instructions for Editorial Work.” Many have pointed to the Harvard document as being the precusor to the first edition of the Bluebook which was published in 1926. The authors argue that the claim is unjustified because the Bluebook’s first edition only contains one sentence from HLS’ “Instructions for Editorial Work” while¬†approximately 30 sentences from YLS’ “Abbreviations and Form of Citation” are found in the Bluebook’s first edition. Other similarities between Yale’s “Abbreviations and Form of Citation” and the Bluebook exist, e.g., the size and design and layout of the covers of the early editions of The Bluebook mimic Yale’s 1921 and 1924 pamphlet editions of “Abbreviations and Form of Citation.” There is much more historial detail in this highly recommended article that cannot be covered in this brief post. The article, for example, details workloads, copyright ownership and revenue sharing of the proceeds of the various editions of the Bluebook.

With the recent publication of the latest edition of The Bluebook, we can expect numerious articles by Bluebookologists for Bluebookologists about our current edition of the Bluebook as has happened when prior editions were first released. This time around, Shapiro and Krishnaswami set the record straight about where and how this work began. Highly recommended for Bluebookologists and anyone else interested in the adoption and use of standardized citation practices and advances in legal bibliography. — Joe

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