PROFESSOR JOHN HENRY MERRYMAN passed away on August 3, 2015, after a long, active, and productive life. He made enormous contributions to legal scholarship: he created a new field, art in the law, and he conceived a new approach to comparative law. He was interested in comparing legal systems in action and using the social sciences and quantitative indicators in his analysis. He studied the Italian law in depth and was familiar with French and German law as well the main Latin American legal systems.
This book is one of his early works in comparative law. It is a masterpiece: clear, comprehensive, and at the same time of an unusual depth. The previous three editions in English are a good proof of its acceptance in the English-speaking (common law) world. The translation into many languages of the countries of the civil law tradition shows its worldwide acceptance. Professor Merryman asked me to participate in its updating for the third edition in 2006, and I was honored when he recognized me as his coauthor. In 2013 and 2014 we taught together Comparative Law and Society at Stanford Law School, and this was the occasion for new conversations on the continuing evolution of the civil law tradition. Generally, we agreed in our understanding of these changes. I think this fourth edition reflects these conversations and our areas of agreement.
In the first two editions, it was clear that an American jurist was explaining the civil law tradition in comparison with his native tradition. I am a native of the civil law tradition, but in this edition the American law is maintained as an anchor for the comparative law purposes. The general appreciation and success of the previous editions of this book encouraged a conservative approach that avoided unnecessary changes.