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Chancellor Kent and the History of Legal Literature, 93 Colum. L. Rev. 547 (1993)


This Article is devoted to an earlier cycle of the history of American legal literature, the period that Roscoe Pound aptly called "the formative era." My purpose is to examine the role of that legendary figure, Chancellor Kent, in the origins of American legal literature. James Kent has long been a figure of renown, especially at Columbia, where his appointment as professor of law in 1793 inaugurated legal education at the University. Kent reworked his second set of lectures, presented at Columbia in the 1820s, into the Commentaries on American Law, the most influential American law book of the antebellum period. Columbia derived enormous luster from the success of Kent's Commentaries, and the Columbia Law School has ever since burnished its link to Kent, for example, through the school's former seat in Kent Hall, the designation of outstanding students as Kent Scholars, Columbia's Kent professorship, and the archival holdings of Kent's books and papers that figure centrally in this Article.

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