Worth a Thousand Words: The Unwritten History of Law as a Jurisprudence of Text and Pictures
Founded on the tripartite emblematic tradition of 'inscriptio' (word as title or motto), 'pictura' (image) and 'subscriptio' (explanatory text or epigram), the image above all else is shown to be the archetype of governance. It is alleged to comprise the ‘anima legis, the living, breathing spirit of law’ and is always encountered first; and it is this ‘depiction of legitimacy’, the ‘figure of justice being done’, that provides the very ‘condition of the possibility of law’ (p. 25). Interestingly, although some of the foremost authors were lawyers, including Andrea Alciato, Barthélemy Aneau and George Wither, their emblem books covered an eclectic range of popular topics rather than focus on law and governance. Until recently this short-lived but much loved medium was treated as mere decoration, a curiosity or a means of amusement and has mostly passed unrecognised by the modern juristic tradition. As a corrective, this distinctive genre with its representational and conceptual pictorial images which aim to go beyond, to express the inexpressible and, most significantly, to convey the idea of the abstract rule and the signs and symbols that capture the heart and soul of law, is explored for the very first time in 'Legal Emblems and the Art of Law'. Goodrich has selected an appealing set of examples from around 1531 to 1700 to trace the trajectory of the normative function of the image, which aptly illustrate how the book of emblems ‘brought images to law’ and in turn ‘brought law to images, that is to say to life’.
Citation : Shaw, J.J.A. (2019) Worth a Thousand Words: The Unwritten History of Law as a Jurisprudence of Text and Pictures, International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, DOI: 10.1007/s11196-019-09627-2
ISSN : 0952-8059
Research Institute : Centre for Law, Justice and Society
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- Department of Law