E.J. Cohn Manual of German Law

I know it’s Sunday, but I’d like to plug a law book. Before I came to Germany, when I was first encountering German law, I picked up two volumes of this at Wildy’s , 2nd edition, 1968 and 1971, for £5 and £6, which was a bargain at the time (about 1980).

E.J. Cohn was a German who was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn. His book goes through the German Civil Code of the time, explaining it in English for English lawyers. There is a German index as well as an English one, and in the first volume a copy from the German Land Register (Grundbuch) and a bibliography. The second volume deals with commercial law, but also conflict of laws, civil procedure, banktuptcy, nationality and family law of East Germany. I must admit I’ve mainly used the first book. But now looking at the page describing the Prokurist and the beginning of nationality (the law of nationality has changed somewhat now), both compared with the situation in England and Wales in a clear way, I can confirm that the book is still useful today – not as a guide to current German law, but as a comparative introduction to German law, which it places in its historical context.

Unfortunately I haven’t found extracts online. There are articles about the book, but none accessible without payment. Here’s the abstract of an article about German lawyers uprooted:

Ernst Joseph Cohn was born in Breslau, Germany on August 7, 1904 to Max Cohn and Charlotte Ruß. Before taking up his studies at the law faculty of the University of Leipzig in Germany, he attended the primary and secondary schools of his home town. His doctoral thesis deals with problems of communication of declarations of intention through the medium of messengers, in particular with the legal effect of a declaration received by a messenger. He obtained his doctorate degree as a summa cum laude. This chapter chronicles Cohn’s legal education and academic career in Germany, his legal research and publications before leaving Germany and emigrating to England, his research on English law as well as international law and comparative law, his interest in civil procedure and arbitration, and his views on private international law and unification of law.

However, you can get the book second-hand online. A search at abebooks.de or abebooks.com will produce some copies. If you leave out the author’s name, you will also find an earlier Foreign Office Manual of German Law (1952) which was written by Cohn.

Note also the latter’s page on bookshop cats.

Here’s a brief extract (section 80 of Volume 1), which I hope shows what a good writer Cohn was:

The importance of legal writings by private writers is far greater in the law of the Federal Republic of Germany than it is in the common law countries. Such writings may be freely quoted in a court of law. Writers of repute enjoy a considerable persuasive authority. If the majority of writers have agreed on a certain view and a dominant view (herrschende Meinung) has thus been formed, the weight of this view in legal practice is great. As judgments of the courts have no binding effect, an attorney who can rely on the dominant opinion as expressed by the standard textbooks and commentaries will be entitled to feel confidence in his case, even though there may be one or two published judgments of inferior courts. Judgments of the courts at all levels often contain references to private writings and sometimes an extensive discussion of the points made by them, in particular where the court wishes to deviate from the views adopted by the writers. References to legal literature will be found throughout this book, although for reasons of space these have been kept to a minimum.

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