Legal Writing

Yale law librarians dispute 'wildly erroneous' claim on Bluebook's origin

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It’s ironic, according to Yale law librarians, that The Bluebook style manual fosters accurate legal citations while the tale of its origin is “wildly erroneous.”

The librarians—Fred Shapiro and Julie Graves Krishnaswami—say the style manual can be traced to a citation guide by the Yale Law Journal, not the Harvard Law Review as widely believed, the New York Times reports.

Bluebook folklore is based on a 1987 article by former Harvard law dean Erwin Griswold, Shapiro and Krishnaswami say. Griswold’s article said The Bluebook goes back at least to the 1920s when Harvard Law Review editors created instructions for legal work.

But the book originated with Karl Llewellyn, who published an eight-page citation booklet in 1920 when he was editor of the Yale Law Journal, Shapiro and Krishnaswami argue in an article set to be published by the Minnesota Law Review. It’s unclear if another Yale student, William Murray Field, was a co-author of the 1920 pamphlet, The Writing of a Case Note.

Llewellyn’s “astonishingly short and simple” list of citation rules is “the embryo that has grown in to the 582-page behemoth that is the Bluebook 20th edition in 2015,” they write.

Related article: “The Bluebook’s 20th edition prompts many musings from Bryan Garner”

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