The Blue Book and its Times

Yale Robinson, a student in my Corporations class, today told me about his law review note topic, which happened to be in the same field as my Note, published back in 1987. After class, Yale went and found my Note and emailed me a report about it.  In the email, Yale added:

As an aside, it is amusing to see that the Table of Contents in the Cardozo Law Review of that time does not list the author of a Note, only the title, and the first page of the Note also does not give the author’s name. You have to go to the last page to see the author’s name. I don’t know why this was done, but it appears that this omission was rectified beginning with the April 1991 issue.

I replied as follows:

The curious style you mention was the standard practice at all law reviews at all schools for [decades, since 1926,] up through 1991 when the Blue Book announced the change. Before 1991, notes were “unsigned” and citation was merely to Note, . . .  rather than Cunningham, Note . . . .

Another practice changed around the same time: in the old days, only an author’s last name was used (Cunningham or Robinson etc); thereafter the first name and initial are included.

I think these changes reflect things about the times, such as elitism that wore away in the case of naming Note authors and a sense of full identity . . . in the case of the full name.

The keepers of the Blue Book keep citation practice up with the times.  Looking back at the styles of earlier eras can be amusing.  I wonder what other amusing anachronisms are to be found in the old style books.


You can see the covers of a dozen different editions of the Blue Book, from which the two in this post are taken, here 




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2 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    As for keeping up with the times: One set of rules that should have been updated long ago relates to the citation of books (Rule 15.4).

    Currently, the publisher’s name must be shown only if a book is issued in multiple editions from the same publisher, or “editions other than by the original publisher” — the scare quotes here because the Blue Bookers overlook that a book can be published simultaneously by different publishers in different territories, so that both or all are the “original”.

    If the book is issued in only one edition from one publisher, it’s not necessary to show the publisher’s name.

    However, often authors may assume that there’s only one edition when actually there are more. Their inappropriate choice of citation form makes it difficult for the reader to locate the correct book. (I speak from experience.)

    A better default rule would therefore be to indicate the publisher in all circumstances, as U Chicago and other standard forms require. This is a win-win: it spares authors the duty of verifying the non-existence of other editions, and it spares readers from confusion when authors are derelict in that duty.

  2. By the way, my understanding is that the switch to full author names came about in response to thoughtful feminist critiques:

    We also appreciate the assistance of the editors of The Yale Law Journal and their willingness to permit us to depart from legal footnote conventions and to provide the first and last names of authors. Using only last names not only limits access (when authors have common names) and often relies upon reader recognition of those already well-known but also assumes that gender is irrelevant. The provision of first initials for those who write books but not articles privileges one form of writing over another. The exclusion of litigants’ first names reinforces their facelessness and genderlessness, but we were unable to persuade the editors to alter this convention.

    Carolyn Heilbrun & Judith Resnik, Convergences: Law, Literature, and Feminism, 99 Yale L.J. 1913, 1913 n.** (1990)

    I had wanted to humanize and particularize the authors whose ideas I used in this Article by giving their first as well as last names. Unfortunately, the editors of the Harvard Law Review, who otherwise have been most cooperative, insisted upon adhering to the “time-honored” Bluebook convention of using last names only . . . . In these rules, I see hierarchy, rigidity, and depersonalization, of the not altogether neutral variety. First names have been one dignified way in which women could distinguish themselves from their fathers and their husbands. I apologize to the authors whose identities have been obscured in the apparently higher goals of Bluebook orthodoxy.

    Katharine T. Bartlett, Feminist Legal Methods, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 829, 829 n.* (1990).