Friday, November 13, 2015

A Bentham MS at GULC Special Collections

[We reproduce the following from News and Reports of the Edward Bennett Williams Law Library at the Georgetown University Law Center for November 2015.]

Special Collections has acquired a unique manuscript glimpse into the mental world of Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarian political thought and Anglo-American codification efforts. 

When Bentham first proposed his universal legal code, which he termed the Pannomiom, his goal was a simplified legal code that could be readily understood by everyone without the need to consult a lawyer. Such simplification apparently eluded even Bentham's talents and the Pannomiom was never completed. All that remains are several thousand manuscript leaves outlining various subjects and chapters, most of which are held by University College London which is crowdsourcing transcriptions. Special Collections' Pannomial fragment was apparently a presentation copy given to an unknown person at the opening of UCL in 1836. It is an outline in Bentham's hand for "Ch. 7. States of the mind with respect to delinquency," and includes his thoughts on distinguishing intellectual faculty from volitional faculty for purposes of determining criminal liability. 

This intriguing document is available online through Digital Georgetown. For access to the actual document, please contact Erin Kidwell, Curator of Legal History Collections (202-662-9149) or Hannah Miller-Kim, Special Collections Librarian (202-661-6602); or email us at

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