Legalese

Initially, the most difficult aspect of working on the project was dealing with the highly technical legal language in most of the pamphlets I worked with at the time. I ended up spending more time with English-language reference sources, trying to figure out what the legalese I was finding meant. Ironically, now that I’ve spent more time with the project, the situation has reversed. The amount of research that I had to do on subjects like emphyteusis (the term the helpful French-English dictionary gave for the French word emphytéose and that I had to look in three English language dictionaries to find. I have since discovered that the secret to figuring out these things is to look in the French language dictionaries like the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française which provide much more detailed definitions than bilingual dictionaries) has ended up paying off, and now the pamphlets published by the legislature on property law, public finance, and any number of other obscure legal topics, are the easiest part of the day. The other pamphlets, the political rants, denunciations, justifications and satires that represent the majority of what I have been working with recently now consume most of my time. They aren’t any more difficult than they were during the beginning of the project, but while cataloging the government documents has gotten easier (especially since the same relatively small group of topics seemed to be the focus of most of the revolutionary legislation) cataloging the other (generally more interesting and exciting) pamphlets continues to take the same amount of time, simply because of how disorganized these pamphlets are. The fact that they are frequently unfocused, give false publishers, locations, authors, and dates (if they include any of that information in the first place) and frequently cover minor political events that are given generic names (for example, “les événemens du octobre dernier”) without any indication of the relative importance, or even the opinion of the author doesn’t encourage swift cataloging either.

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