Sanagan's Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims

Sanagan's Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims is a primary legal reference source that defines legal words and phrases specifically in terms of Canadian law. The authors of the current edition state, “The task of a legal dictionary is to document both the regions of legal discourse in which there is a relatively stable consensus as to the meaning of words and phrases and those in which the judicial, legislative or societal seismograph is more active” (Gardner & Gardner, 2008). The definitions are listed alphabetically and each entry lists the Canadian law cases that are most recent and relevant to the meanings.

The types of libraries most likely to have Sanagan's Encyclopedia in their collection are academic, government, and law. It is less likely that public libraries could justify the financial cost of maintaining this source as part of their general reference collection.

This source was recommended by a Michael Lines who works as a reference law librarian at an academic library who says that it is necessary to consult secondary sources first in order to research the relevant primary sources. (citation). Literature reviews of the encyclopedia seem limited to the first edition published in 1940. Although the University of Toronto Law Journal published a review that recognized the need for dictionaries and encyclopedias as working tools, they also point out that the, “interpretation of each word or phrase included in this work is, by and large, supported by only a single authority” (“Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims, Canada 1825-1940,” 1941) Nonetheless, this encyclopedia is established as an exemplary source today since the connections to relevant primary sources are built-in and frequent updates ensure that the user has access to up-to-date information.


Initial investment: $1068.00

Maintenance: $3550.00 - $4260.00 annually (estimated based on supplements costing $355 that are released 10-12 times per year)

Pricing applies to the print copy and includes free access to the electronic source. There is no limit to how many users can access the resource from the purchaser's location.


Available in print and electronic formats

Kept current with frequent updates

Secondary source that provides direct connections to relevant primary sources


Cost to maintain the subscription with current information is expensive and ongoing

Physical binders are cumbersome and poor quality so that loose leaf pages get stuck in metal rings

Remote access to electronic format relies on computer and internet access

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