The Enigma of Samuel Parsons Scott

37 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2014 Last revised: 15 Nov 2014

See all articles by Timothy G. Kearley

Timothy G. Kearley

University of Wyoming College of Law

Date Written: November 12, 2014


Samuel Parsons Scott (1846-1929) single-handedly translated into English the Corpus Juris Civilis, the Visigothic Code, and the Siete Partidas. The latter was very well received, and not long ago was reprinted in a new edition; the first mentioned was criticized strongly but often has been used because, until recently, it contained the only published English translation of Justinian’s Code. However, almost nothing has been known about Scott, as he was an independent scholar who lived and worked in the small American town of Hillsboro, Ohio. This article uses information obtained from Hillsboro newspapers, local histories, probate court records, and the catalog of Scott’s personal library, to describe his life and the details of his work. It proposes an explanation for why he went from being a successful small-town business man, who wrote about history and his travels as an avocation, to a being a recluse who devoted his last years to translating ancient laws. The article’s analysis of Scott and his library also suggests some possible explanations for the flaws in his translation of the Justinianic Corpus.

Keywords: Roman law, legal history, translation, Samuel Parsons Scott, S. P. Scott, classics, Latin, Corpus Juris Civils, Justin Codex

JEL Classification: K30

Suggested Citation

Kearley, Timothy G., The Enigma of Samuel Parsons Scott (November 12, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Timothy G. Kearley (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming College of Law ( email )

Dept. 3035
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WV 82071
United States

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