A FOOD FOR THOUGHT – OLD LEGAL CLASSICS
The relationship between a good publisher and enlightened authors depends on the faith and trust and both deserve to be respected by each other. Once Dr. Radhakrishnan (then Vice-President of India) visited his publisher’s office of M/s George Allen and Unwin in central London UK without any prior information. The Chairman of the company was Sir Stanley Unwin whose room was on the first floor of the publishing house. The receptionist came running up to inform the Chairman, “Sir, Dr. Radhakrishnan has arrived in our office.” On hearing this Sir Stanley ran down the stairs hurriedly and welcoming the celebrity visitor who had arrived unannounced in his office said, “Sir you could have phoned to us and we would have welcomed you properly.” Dr. Radhakrishnan replied, “You are my publisher. I don’t need any formal welcome. Your office is like my own.” Such was the relationship between the author and the publisher.
Similarly, almost once a week Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar, one of our distinguished authors and I meet to exchange our views on matters of common interest over a cup of coffee. During one such meeting on 28th April, 2007 he casually enquired from me as to which are the old books printed during the nineteenth century in English on Indian Law and are still relevant and referred in courts.
This question became a food for thought to me. I had never applied my mind to such a question nor had such a query flicked at me earlier by any of our authors, legal professionals or members of the book industry throughout my career of over fifty-five years in the book-trade. I appreciated the topic which gave me an opportunity to undertake a research on the matter. I put off all my routine works and appointments. I was restlessly searching for the answer to the question. In the course of my research I found that the first law book was published in Sanskrit about two thousand years ago. It is well-known that Manu Smriti is regarded as the oldest codification and Manu is recognized as the first law-giver. But the topic at hand was different—to name the titles published in English during the 19th century.
I then scrutinized the chronological list of Acts enacted during the British period on Indian laws. During the period when the British took the reigns of the Indian administration, they took to framing laws. But the question before me was quite different. I went down to my showroom – an exclusive Law bookshop in Connaught Place to search the voluminous earlier published books. While going through the racks, one book caught my attention. It was a newly revised edition of a title recently released.
The print line prominently put on its Jacket announced 128th year of publication. The book was ‘Sir W.H. Rattigan’s Customary Law’. Leafing through the pages of Preface and Foreword, I found that the author had completed the research work on the subject and brought out its first edition in the year 1880 (one hundred and twenty-eight years back). I am glad to say that “Universal” is the proud publisher of its 16th edition and possesses its copyright. While going through the foreword of its 15th edition by Justice (Dr.) Bakshi Tek Chand, I noticed that its 7th edition was revised by Sir William Rattigan, son of Sir Henry Rattigan who was a Judge for a number of years at the Punjab Chief Court; later he became the first Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court. The 16th edition (2007) of this book is on stands. It will be interesting to note that many customs prevailing much earlier in India still hold good as statutes. The Privy Council in a case decided in the year 1941 described the work as a “book of unquestioned authority on the subject”.
Perusing through the Preface of another book by Sir John D. Mayne, ‘Hindu Law and Usages’ I noticed that the first edition of this work was published in the year 1878 is one of the standard works on the subject available in the market. No doubt one of the most standard commentary on Hindu Law authored by Rt. Hon’ble Sir Dinshah Mulla was published soon after the nineteenth century in the year 1912.
The topic entrusted to me was so interesting that I could not divert my attention and I continued to research commentaries published during the 19th century. And few more Legal Classics:
R.A. Nelson’s Indian Penal Code 1860. Sir John Woodroffe & Syed Amir Ali’s Law of Evidence the first edition of which was published in the year 1898. Sohoni’s Code of Criminal Procedure the first edition of this classic appeared in the year 1873.
Ratanlal & Dhirajlal’s The Indian Penal Code (1st Edn. 1896) Ratanlal & Dhirajlal’s The Law of Torts (1st Edition 1897) Ratanlal & Dhirajlal’s Law of Crimes – A Commentary on The Indian Penal Code’ the first edition of which was published in 1901. Dr.
Sir Hari Singh Gour Penal Law of India first edition of which appeared in the year 1890.
Food for thought as the caption of this write up has no destination. It is a journey and an ongoing process. I therefore implore all readers, authors, law students, professionals and publishers to contribute to this topic.
I recall a quotation of Justice Dr. Bakshi Tek Chand who once said that “The book is the real child of the author who never dies unlike humans.”