Article on The Laws of Scotland: Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, to mark the 21st anniversary of publication of the first volume

This year sees the 21st anniversary of The Laws of Scotland: Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, first published between 1987 and 1996 in 25 volumes with 137 titles. The titles were written by about 300 contributors, nearly all members of the legal profession, who gave of their time and expertise for nothing, or at most a very small token honorarium.

The Encyclopaedia represented an important stage in the rebirth of Scottish legal literature. In 1981, the tercentenary of the first edition of Stair’s Institutions, the Law Society of Scotland resolved to sponsor a new legal encyclopaedia. The first General Editor was Sir Thomas Broun Smith, the main guide and inspiration of the project, who was followed on his death in 1988 by Professor Robert Black, formerly one of the deputy editors along with Mr Hamish Henderson and Professor Joe Thomson. Joe Thomson was the first General Editor of the Reissue, which commenced publication in 1999, and he was followed in 2000 by the present General Editor, Professor Niall R Whitty.

The primary object of the Encyclopaedia and its Reissue is to provide a complete record of Scots law to meet the needs of the profession and of scholars. The typical user the founders had in mind was the solicitor in general practice who did not have easy access to a law library. The internet has now improved accessibility of sources to an extent previously unimaginable, but the aim remains the same, except that the Encyclopaedia as updated is now accessible online.

In order to keep the work as current as possible, the updating service was launched with the publication of the first volumes, a small team of LexisNexis editors noting relevant developments. The current Reissue programme was then launched in 1999. To date it covers some 50 titles.

With the Reissue, the format changed from volumes covering several titles to publication of individual titles in binders. This enables titles on areas of the law subject to rapid change, such as Criminal Procedure, to be reissued more than once. It also allows greater flexibility of length of titles, such that those on very significant areas of the law can be given extended treatment, for example Child and Family Law.

On this 21st anniversary it is still the objective of LexisNexis and of the Society to maintain the Encyclopedia as the corner stone of every Scots law library, a task which can be achieved only with the ongoing commitment of our contributors who still give generously of their knowledge and time and to whom we owe our heartfelt thanks.

Eve Moran, Managing Editor: Laws of Scotland Reissuess

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