"The concept of writing should define the field of a science," Jacques Derrida has said (has written, I mean), and this has been conspicuously true for the science of law. In the continental European-that is, the Roman or Romanoid-tradition, law is conceived as jus scriptum, which means that in order to have force, to be enacted, law had to be recorded, and therefore depended in every way on written proof and procedure. Human will and human acts are psychological and social phenomena, no doubt; but in the law "acts" and "wills" are transformed into written instruments; and in this connection Justice, too, while remaining blind, has had to learn to write. In the Renaissance, of course, she also had to learn history, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, and was thereby initiated into the elitist and politicized world of print culture.

Yet in a rudimentary way law was the product of custom - jus non scriptum preceded jus scriptum - as both Roman lawyers and their European descendants generally believed. As particular actions underlie unwritten custom and social rules, so particular judgments underlie legal rules; and however indirectly, the cumulative record and interpretation of such rules are the basis for later codifications, systems of law, and various attempts to improve and to "reform" these formal legal creations. Such at least is the ideal history on which the professional legal tradition and its self-image seems to be based.