The British papers are full of the British Library’s deal with Microsoft to digitize 25 million pages of material (100,000 books) that is outside the period of copyright protection: see http://news.zdnet.com/2102-9588_22-5933033.html?tag=printthis
I was surprised at how little the classics of the law are available from the regular search engines on the open web.
I did a small experiment on Google, Google Scholar, and Google Print, looking for the five great treatises of the English common law: Glanvill’s Treatise on the laws and customs of the realm of England, Bracton, Littleton’s Tenures, Coke and Blackstone, together with Sir John Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliae, Christopher St. Germain’s Doctor and Student and De Republica Anglorum.
Spotty results. Funnily it was the rise of the neocons that make some of this material available.
You can find Blackstone at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/blackstone/blacksto.htm and Coke at http://oll.libertyfund.org/EBooks/Coke_0489.pdf
Bracton in an English Translation is at http://www.constitution.org/britton/britton.htm
The Commonwealth of England as the De Republica Anglorum is styled in translation is at http://www.constitution.org/eng/repang.htm
I couldn’t locate Littleton’s Tenures, good luck on Ranulph Glanvill.
One can’t find Sir John Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliae except behind a firewall.
After that it’s slim pickings. One fascinating place I did find is the Google Print facility and access to the complete OUP text of AWB Simpson’s classic “A History of the Common Law of Contract” which dates from the mid-1980s.
It looks as if the digitization of libraries project will ultimately spread access globally. But what about this side of the Atlantic. How much of Canadian legal history is available through the web.
Why aren’t the basic documents of Canada’s constitutional history available? The drafts and documents leading up to major constitutional developments? Obviously the BNA Act and the Charter are available, but so much more should be available. There aren’t any copyright hang-ups on that material.
I was excited by suggestions that the material on the Charlottetown Conference was available on a federal site. But by a huge irony, the collection of material on the Charlottetown Conference at http://collections.ic.gc.ca/E/view.html is met with dead links.
Shouldn’t this be a priority for those concerned with Canadian legal history?