A Translator’s Toolbox: The Law, Moreau-Lislet’s
Library, and the Presence of Multilingual
Dictionaries in Nineteenth-Century Louisiana
The private law of Louisiana—as encapsulated prominently in the
Louisiana Civil Code—presents two interesting features: this law is
applicable in a mixed jurisdiction and is drafted in the English language.
Louisiana indeed combines aspects of both common and civil law, and
jurists who intend to implement continental European principles may
value this interaction of systems while undertaking their practices and
studies in the common law and vice versa.1 After all, Louisiana may be
considered a “Civil Law island” partially surrounded by a “sea of Common
Law”—a status that has to be safeguarded to survive.2 In addition,
although the lingua franca now is English, the previous lingua franca
applied in Louisiana for a significant time period. The fact that the
Louisiana Constitution of 1845 instructed the bilingual publication in
French and English is relevant for understating the legal history of civil
Copyright 2016, by AGUSTÍN PARISE.
* Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University (The
Netherlands); LLB, LLD, Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina); LLM, Paul
M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University (USA); PhD, Maastricht
This Article was drafted on the occasion of the Louisiana Law Review’s
2016 Symposium of the Civil Law held in Baton Rouge on March 18, 2016 to
celebrate the life and work of Alain A. Levasseur. The Author is indebted to
Georgia D. Chadwick and Vicenç F. Feliú for facilitating, in 2009, a copy of the
1832 manuscript inventory of Moreau-Lislet’s library. The title of this Article
found inspiration in the study by Robert Feikema Karachuk, A Workman’s Tools:
The Law Library of Henry Adams Bullard, 42 AM. J. LEGAL HIST. 160 (1998).
1. Agustín Parise, Report on the State of Louisiana to the Second Thematic
Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law, 31 MISS. C. L. REV.
397, 403 (2013).
2. Agustín Parise, Non-Pecuniary Damages in the Louisiana Civil Code
Article 1928: Originality in the Early Nineteenth Century and Its Projected Use
in Further Codification Endeavors 14 (May 18, 2006) (unpublished LL.M. thesis,
Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University) (on file with the
Louisiana State University Law Library).
1164 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 76
law codification in Louisiana.3 The Louisiana Constitution of 1868,
however, returned to mandatory promulgation in the English language.4
Spanish, another language that had significant presence in the
founding years of Louisiana,5 plays a significant role in fully
understanding the current private law in Louisiana vis-à-vis the private law
in Latin American jurisdictions. Scholars both of continental European
and common law systems may look to Louisiana for civil law terminology
in English.6 Alain A. Levasseur is well aware of those two interesting
features, as his work has reflected for a number of decades.
Levasseur defends the civil law from his position at Louisiana State
University, acting also as director of its Center for European Studies. He
holds law degrees from Université de Paris and Tulane University, and
honorary degrees from Université d’Aix-Marseille and Université de Paris
Panthéon Assas.7 Among his many works are the Louisiana Civil Code
Précis Series,8 where he showcases the unique composition of private law
in Louisiana, and his Dictionary of the Civil Code,9 where he excels in
presenting civil law terminology in English. Levasseur was one of the
members of the expert committee for the 2014 translation of the French
Civil Code into English by David W. Gruning, a major step undertaken to
showcase the civil law tradition among the English-language legal
discourse.10 Levasseur was also one of the translators of the Catala Avant-
3. See KATE WALLACH, RESEARCH IN LOUISIAN A LAW 10 (2d ed. 1960)
(citing LA. CONST. art. 132 (1845)).
4. LA. CONST. art. 109 (1868).
5. AGUSTÍN PAR ISE, HISTORIA DE LA CODIFICACIÓN CIVIL DEL ESTADO DE
LUISIANA Y SU INFLUENCIA EN EL CÓDIGO CIVIL ARGENTINO 31–54 (2013).
6. Parise, supra note 1, at 403.
7. See Alain A. Levasseur: Biography, LSU LAW CENTER, http://www.law.lsu
.edu/directory/pro files/alain-a-levasseur/ [https://perma.cc/J5FM-3MLW] (last visited
Feb. 17, 2016).
8. For additional information on the Louisiana Civil Code Précis Series, see
Susan Gualtier, Book Revie w, Louisiana Civil Code Précis Series, 5 J. CIV. L.
STUD. 305 (2012), and Louisiana Civil Code Précis Series, RUSSELL LONG CHAIR
& CCLS NEWSL. (Ctr. of Civil Law Studies, Baton Rouge, La.), June 2010, at 3,
available at http://www.law.lsu.edu/ccls/newsletter/ [https://perma.cc/X74J-
8WPG] (last visited Feb. 17, 2016).
9. For additional information on the Dictionary of the Civil Code, see
Dictionary of the Civil Code, RUSSELL LONG CHAIR & CCLS NEWSL. (Ctr. of Civil
Law Studies, Baton Rouge, La.), Dec. 2014, at 1, available at http://www.la w
.lsu.edu/ccls/newsletter/ [https://perma.cc/X74J-8WPG] (last visited Feb. 17, 2016).
10. See Legifrance Translations, LEGIFRANCE, http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr
/Traductions/en-English/Legifrance-translations [https://perma.cc/46SV-DEEP] (last
visited Dec. 1, 2015).