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Wesley Hohfeld began his landmark 1913 article, Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning, by impugning existing analytical treatments of trusts, yet noticeably never fully explained his own view of trusts as a “complex aggregate” of “fundamental” relations.1 In the last footnote to the article, Hohfeld stated that in his “next article … some attention will be given to the nature and analysis of complex legal interests, or aggregates of jural relations.”2 Unfortunately, as the editor of his collected works, Walter Wheeler Cook, explained in an annotated version of that footnote, “the ‘next article’ deals chiefly with rights, etc., in personam and rights, etc., in rem. The author’s untimely death prevented the carrying out of the remainder of the plan.”3
This annotated version of Hohfeld’s most well-known and cited work is structured to provide important context and explanation both to law students and others seeking to better understand the core of Hohfeld’s typology, as well as to those well-versed in the Hohfeldian typology.1 The text has been condensed (the Editor’s deletions of the original text are indicated by ellipses,2 while Hohfeld’s deletions of quoted material are indicated by three asterisks) and annotated (in square brackets) with the law student and Hohfeld novice in mind. For this reason, all footnotes in the original work (that have not been deleted) appear in the text itself (in small type in triangle brackets), following the footnote number in the original article (which appears in normal type).
In the century or so after the untimely death of Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld, his ideas have been a source of inspiration for widely divergent streams of legal scholarship. More generally, the nature of his ideas and the circumstances of his life have placed him at the crossroads of many currents of legal and social thought, making him a – somewhat fortuitously – pivotal figure in legal theory. And, after all the many explications and applications of his framework, it is as fresh and in many ways as enigmatic as on the day he left it in its unfinished state.
Following Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld’s untimely death, he bequeathed nearly all of his academic papers to his colleague and friend, Walter Wheeler Cook, his law books to the Yale Law Library, and his personal letters and effects to his family. Unfortunately, other than one set of Hohfeld’s class notes deposited by Cook at Johns Hopkins, Hohfeld’s academic papers have been irretrievably lost or discarded. Hohfeld’s law books have been available at the Yale Law Library (indeed, mainly in the general collection) since his death.
Wesley Hohfeld is known the world over as the legal theorist who famously developed a taxonomy of legal concepts. His contributions to legal thinking have stood the test of time, remaining relevant nearly a century after they were first published. Yet, little systematic attention has been devoted to exploring the full significance of his work. Beginning with a lucid, annotated version of Hohfeld's most important article, this volume is the first to offer a comprehensive look at the scope, significance, reach, intricacies, and shortcomings of Hohfeld's work. Featuring insights from leading legal thinkers, the book also contains many of Hohfeld's previously unseen personal papers, shedding new light on the complex motivations behind Hohfeld's projects. Together, these selected papers and original essays reveal a portrait of a multifaceted and ambitious intellectual who did not live long enough to see the impact of his ideas on the study of law.