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There is a story -- recalled rather wistfully by an American in 1995, shortly after the thrashing of Young America by New Zealand's Black Magic -- that in 1851 Queen Victoria came to watch the first race for what became known as the America's Cup. “Who is leading?” she asked the signal master of the royal yacht. “The America,” came the reply. “Which boat is in second place?” the Queen wanted to know. The signal master replied: “There is no second, ma'am.'DD'

This story -- which, though perhaps apocryphal, has gained a life of its own -- captures perfectly the role that John Henry Wigmore's great treatise has played in the development of the law of evidence in the twentieth century. In saying so, I can claim not originality, but rather distinguished authority. John M. Maguire, one of the great scholars of evidence of the generation after Wigmore, referred to the story in 1928 in a generally disparaging review of another treatise and concluded, “Wigmore is still first, and there is no second.” Edmund M. Morgan, Maguire's colleague at Harvard and perhaps the greatest evidence scholar of that generation, quoted Maguire's words approvingly 12 years later in reviewing the third edition of Wigmore's treatise.


Reprinted from The New Wigmore: A Treatise on Evidence: Selected Rules of Limited Admissibility. 3rd ed., 2019, xiii-xxviii., with permission of Kluwer Law International.

This introduction was originally written in 1995.

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