This book investigates theories of interpretation and meaning in Renaissance jurisprudence. How do they relate to the institutions of the law, especially pedagogical institutions? What characterizes the most commonly adopted theories of the legal profession? In what form were they published? How do they relate to modern canons of interpretation found in the trivium of grammar, dilaectics and rhetoric? In what ways, if any, do they mark a departure from medieval approaches? How do they relate to modern canons of interpretation? And how do they relate to similar issues in modern semantics and the philosophy of language, such as speech act theory or the 'logic of the supplement'? An answer to these questions is sought through an investigation of Renaissance problems concerning the authority of interpreters, the questions of signification, definition, verbal propriety and verbal extension, the problem of cavillation, the alternative interpretative strategies of ratio legis and mens legislatoris, the performative functions of language, and custom and equity as means of interpretation.
'Maclean provides an excellent introduction to the Humanist movement in legal studies, and its relationship with what went before and what came after. He deserves an audience in the schools of law, semantics and history; a truly Renaissance achievement.' Times Higher Education Supplement 'Maclean has written a remarkably learned and penetrating study of legal interpretation ...' Brian Vickers, Times Literary Supplement