To find current laws you will probably start by going to a national portal for legislation. Until two decades ago it was quite normal to search for new laws in legal gazettes, many of them now only appearing in an electronic format. Finding foreign legal gazettes can be a real challenge, especially for older issues. In this post I will look at some directories for foreign legal gazettes, and I will fcous in particular on the interactive map for finding legal gazettes created recently by the Law Library of Congress. This library is without any doubt the largest law library in the world. For me it meant a welcome opportunty to update the concise information about this subject on my legal history website Rechtshistorie and to write here at greater length about ways to trace legal gazettes.
Protecting the law
I was alerted to the new interactive map of the Law Library of Congress by a post at its blog In Custodia Legis. In fact several recent posts concern the efforts to create access to the LoC’s own vast collection of legal gazettes, for example a post from January 2021 with a video about the cataloging project leading to theninteractive map, and a post in May 2022 about recent additions ot the digital collection of legal gazettes at the LoC.
Apart from navigating the interactive map you can also use the search filters provided at the start screen of the interactive legal gazettes map. It is most thoughtful to distinguish between national and subnational gazettes. In the overview below the map historical and municipal jurisdictions have not been forgotten, too, as is a succinct notice about the coverage of a legal gazette. You can also filter for six preset formats. There is also a mobile version of the interactive map. The menu button in the top right corner of the online map leads you to the LoC’s digital collection of legal gazettes, back to the main LoC website, or to the Ask a Librarian service. It would be helpful to provide here also a direct link to the Law Library itself which is not easily found from the startscreen of the Library of Congress. Its dimensions and importance make better visibility in my view an absolute must.
Strangely the website of the Library of Congress currently lacks a separate page devoted to its gazettes collection. The link to such a page does lead you only to its digital collection. The interactive map cum database is not included in the list with available databases, nor does it merit a guide among the rich choice of research guides. However, the LoC’s digital collection of legal gazettes – with currently nearly 8,500 items – is supported by a current number of 34 web archives of online legal gazettes worldwide. Maybe a kind of Quick Links section can help visitors of the website of the Law Library of Congress, at the collections page or its section Nations of the World of its Guide to Law Online. Internal references at such points can be most helpful, as are the directions provided in the introduction to its own important digital collection for this subject. I suppose we have to keep in mind the website of the Library of Congress is actually a portal site. It mirrors faithfully its vast dimensions and manifold qualities. The Law Library is one of the jewels in the crown of the Library of Congress that should shine more brighly at this great online portal! When you take into consideration the many positive aspects going often far beyond your expectations my remarks are not meant to diminish these qualities which I greatly admire.
Other roads to foreign legal gazettes
When writing this post it seemed the Library of Congress’ online repertory wins in importance by the fact I could not reach the online repertory for foreign legal gazettes created by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in Chicago. In fact I could not reach the CRL and its digital collections at all. There is a more restricted Directory of Online Government Gazettes at a personal web page of the University of Michigan. It can be helpful to use the list of government gazettes at Wikipedia, even when considering the very succinct listing with few details wihtin the list, but for a number of these gazettes dedicated Wikipedia pages exist. The similar list of the German Wikipedia, called Liste gesamtstaatlicher Vorschriftensammlungen shows more details. The version at the Spanish Wikipedia is just a list, giving you only fifteen gazettes for Europe and most national gazettes for Latin America, and also regional gazettes for Spain and Mexico.
Luckily the FLARE Foreign Official Government Gazettes Database of the IALS, School of Advanced Legal Studies, London, is up and running. With a free text search field and six fields for advanced search some reassuring care for bibliographical and practical information of this database is clearly present. However, when you click on results you will not always find exact information about the publication period of a gazette, but surely the notes are helpful, such as no more than one year is missing inholdings, and sometimes there is very full information about legal online portals for a particular country.
For some regions and continents you can benefit from special online portal. Thus for Latin America you might want to look at the Red de Boletines Oficiales Americanos, but alas this link, too, did not function. The Digital Library of the Caribbean (DLoC) contains a number of official gazettes. The International Union List of South Asian Newspapers and Gazettes is a searchable database of the Digital South Asia Library, University of Chicago.
The digital collection of some African and South Asian legal gazettes created by Harvard Law School Library has vanished from the HLS library website, nor can you quickly find an overview of all its digital collections after the latest overhaul of its website. It might be useful indeed to give some direction to the digital collections of Harvard University Library which brings you to these gazettes within its digital collections. Some kind of list or overview at a logical point would be helpful and certainly feasible, but this seems to have been only an element of earlier online forms of these rich collections. You will be happy to use the Excel sheet created in 2019 by LLMC Digital for holding of African legal prints at the Library of Congress and eighteen other libraries in the United States and Canada, with information about legal gazettes. law codes and legal journals. For Africa you can luckily use the subdomain for gazettes of Laws.Africa.
Some concluding remarks
From this brief post it becomes clear finding foreign legal gazettes can indeed be daunting, but the interactive map of the Library of Congress is surely a fine point to start your search for this document type, as is the database of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. Both institutions offer more than just ionformation on current legal gazettes. The paragraph for the main portals to legal gazettes at my website needs definitely some updating. It is disturbing to note some very respected institutions do not longer offer the full information about the legal gazettes they hold, nor indicate the current gateway to their materials. For some continents addiitional overviews exists, and their information is a welcome addition. The longevity of Internet and digital collections is not as complete as you would like it to be. In my view legal historians should take due notice of the fact many overviews of legal gazettes focus on their current form and presence. Historical overviews are a rarity on the main portals for foreign law, and also in library guides for the laws of paricular countries.
Whenever I come across digital collections with a substantial number of older issues or earlier gazettes I try to list them, but of course I cannot guarantee complete coverage. We should very much appreciate and welcome the efforts of teams at some of the world’s most renown libraries to create effective overviews of particular resources. Such initiatives should be a spur for research institutions to create better visibility for their libraries which offer so much more than just stacks for holdings in print and access to databases, online repositories and digital collections.