Monday, July 1, 2013

A Law by Any Other Name is Still a Law

When researching legislative history at the State Library, patrons sometimes encounter abbreviations like G.S., P.S., R.L., and R.S. These abbreviations are law compilations, or Acts divided up by subject with chapter numbers. The abbreviations stand for:

Revised Statutes-R.S.
General Statutes-G.S.
Public Statutes-P.S.
Revised Laws-R.L.

For instance, if someone uses an annotated version of the Massachusetts General Laws for the statute on the Adulteration of Alcoholic Liquors (Chapter 270, section 1 of the Massachusetts General Laws), he or she can find citations to previous versions of the laws. The citations will look like this:

GS 166 section 4; General Statute chapter 166, section 4
PS 208 section 4; Public Statute Chapter 208, section 4
RL 213 section 1; Revised Law 213, section 1

The State Library of Massachusetts owns earlier versions of the Massachusetts General Laws, including: General Laws of Massachusetts 1823, Revised Statutes of MA 1836, the General Statutes of MA 1860, the Public Statutes of 1882, the Revised Laws of 1902, the General Laws of 1921, and the General Laws of 1932 tercentenary edition. It is important to note that there were no official Massachusetts General Laws published between the years 1932 and 1984.

These laws are in paper format in the State Library and also available online in the State Library’s digital repository.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian