A Treatise on the American Law of Easements and Servitudes

By EMORY WASHBURN, LL. D. Philadelphia : George W. Childs, pp. 640.
“EASEMENTS” is no easy subject for a law-writer. In its development he will be thrown, to a great extent, upon his own resources in collating and unfolding the topics, for the literature upon the subject existing in our own language is so meagre that the form of its presentation has not been cast in any conventional mould. We have heretofore had no American treatise whatever upon the general subject, and the English bar has furnished us only with that of Gale and Whately, which almost wholly ignores the American cases. It is evident, therefore, that it required an original and fresh intellectual effort to gather together the hundreds of adjudications scattered through our various State reports, classify them, compare them, study them, and construct a homogeneous and extensive analysis of their doctrine. This sort of distillation, if we may so speak, from the crude mass, has been most thoroughly performed by the author of the work before us ; and the result is, that, instead of merely making a book, he has indeed written one. In reading it, we recall the great authoritative treatises of the profession, such as Abbott on Shipping, or Sugden on Vendors, and we are also the more disgusted with the hotchpots of the “ United States Digest,” called law-books.
Professor Washburn is fairly before the public as the author of the “ Treatise on the American Law of Real Property,” and his merits as a writer have thus become so well known as to render any new commendation superfluous. His style is plain, clear, and compact. He addresses himself directly to the subject of which he is treating, spinning no curious refinements and admitting no irrelevant digressions. Nor does he keep the reader oscillating between text and notes, in a state of dizzying, unstable equilibrium which would task an acrobate. There be books we have seen printed, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, in which the text was so shingled over with layers of notes, or the notes were so underpinned by a slight propping of text, that it was difficult to say, in the language of Easements, which was the servient and which the dominant tenement. Our author’s volume, we are happy to say, is not thus bifurcated. His law is in his text, and his sources are in his notes.
There is another feature which we dare not overlook, and that is, the hearty conscientiousness with which the writer does his work. He takes nothing at secondhand, but goes straightway to the authorities. It begets confidence in a writer, when he is enabled to say for himself, as the Professor apologetically does in his Preface, “It has been my aim to examine for myself every reported case which bore sufficiently upon the topic under consideration to warrant a reference to it as an authority ”; and when we are further told that “the cases thus examined considerably exceed a thousand in number,” we may form some conception of the great industry as well as the rare literary honesty of the writer.
The arrangement of the book is admirable. At the commencement of each chapter we have the titles of the various sections, and each successive section is introduced by a statement of the contents of each clause. This facilitates search, though it necessitates the cumbrous mode of reference adopted in the foot-notes to chapter, section, and placitum.
It would be easy for us to prolong this notice, but we must content ourselves with an earnest commendation of the work to the profession. It is literally indispensable to the general practitioner, not merely because it is the only book which contains the collected law on the subject as administered in this country, but also because, if it had a dozen competitors, its intrinsic value would be all the more fully developed by the comparison.