Legal enigmas-Antonio de Nebrija, the da Vinci code and the emendation of law

Peter Goodrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is rare in the extreme for a judge to embed an enigma, here an intentionally encrypted message, in the text of a judgment. Using the occasion of the cypher inserted into the judgment of Peter Smith J in Baigent v Random House, this article patiently reconstructs the humanist concept of aenigmata iuris or legal enigmas so as properly to interpret this recent use. Legal enigmas are shown to be the residues of forgotten histories, references to lost texts, marks left by encounters between law and its now marginal literary and poetic sources. Where current legal use treats enigmas as mere obscurities, this article argues that the enigma should be apprehended and appreciated as an image of juristic invention, the moment of devising a decision, the instant of creative encounter between 'the sciences liberall', doctrine and law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbergqq001
Pages (from-to)71-99
Number of pages29
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 27 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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