The ‘authentick practique bookes’ of Alexander Spalding

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Towards the end of his career and the beginning of mine I was fortunate to have Angelo Forte as both my colleague and my mentor. We met at the British Legal History Conference in Oxford in 2007, when I was in the first year of my doctoral studies. I have very fond memories of that conference, and one of the most treasured is of a dinner at a local restaurant which he, Andrew Simpson and I shared. Angelo and I stayed in touch after that event, and, a year later, it was he who first encouraged me to apply for the lectureship which I still hold. He was formally my first mentor as a new lecturer, and I had the pleasure of teaching Honours courses in Scottish and European Legal History with him before his retirement. As several of the contributions in this volume show, his presence is still missed by colleagues in the School of Law and across the University.

One of Angelo’s great interests was the practical application of law, as is evident in many of his works on legal history. One of his collaborative projects was the editing and analysis of an eighteenth-century manuscript stylebook from the Aberdeen Sheriff and Commissary courts.1 Angelo Forte and his colleague, Michael Meston,2 identified twenty-eight styles or writs in that manuscript which were relevant to practice in the local Commissary court between 1698 and 1722.3 Analysis of these writs allowed them to conclude that this was ‘an active and busy court’4 and reflect on its jurisdiction and procedure more generally.5 One of the reasons that the stylebook is so important is that in October 1721 ‘an accidental dreadful Fire happened within the Town of Aberdeen […] whereby the Office, commonly called the Commissar Clerks Office, was suddenly consumed, and at the same Time the Registers and Records therein […] were intirely burnt and destroyed’.6 Hence David Stevenson noted that ‘Any document relating to [the] Aberdeen commissary court before 1721 is given particular interest’.7
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContinuity, Change and Pragmatism in the Law
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Memory of Professor Angelo Forte
EditorsAndrew R.C. Simpson, Scott Crichton Styles, Euan West, Adelyn L.M. Wilson
Place of PublicationAberdeen
Number of pages62
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2016


  • Angelo Forte (1949–2012)
  • legal history
  • Scots private law
  • commercial law


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