German Civil Code – Books 1 – 2 Commentary

Dannemann/Schulze: German Civil Code Volume I: Books 1 – 3 Article-by-Article (sic) Commentary

This is a huge thick tome which has just appeared. You might like to have a copy, although you might not like to pay the justified price of over £200 for it.

About 40 authors and over 2300 pages. Here’s the blurb at Beck Verlag.

  1. There are many so-called official English translations of German statutes online. Some are here:

But you can often find translations elsewhere. Austrian and Swiss statutes are similarly available.

There used to be an official site linking translations elsewhere (only as long as the German statutes were current, although translators and lawyers do sometimes need earlier versions). Sadly that cgerli site, cited at the bottom of the opening page of this blog, now only links to hotels in Salzburg. Before that, Robin Stocks used to keep a collection, but I think it would be too much for him and me to resurrect/update it.

There is a side-by-side translation of the new post-2002 bits by Gerhard Dannemann online at the German Law Archive.

The online translation of the BGB is thus described:

Übersetzung durch ein Übersetzer-Team des Langenscheidt Übersetzungsservice. Laufende Aktualisierung der Übersetzung durch Neil Mussett.
Translation provided by the Langenscheidt Translation Service. Translation regularly updated by Neil Mussett.

It only goes as far as the 2013 update of the German original.

2. The Dannemann/Schulze commentary quotes this online translation, plus its own versions of the post-2013 sections. It does not like the translation but I assume foreign lawyers would be confused if the online version, which they sometimes pass on to clients, were different. And it has the great advantage that the authors can point out which bits of the translation they don’t like. I have not yet many examples, as I have not had time to look very closely, but for example, the general part now includes Unternehmer and Verbraucher, which the online translation calls entrepreneur and consumer. The notes show how complex the situation is: the EU directives use the term trader. Dannemann has an online translation of the new parts of the BGB post-2002 and uses businessperson, which I like. The Commentary notes:

The definition of entrepreneur (Unternehmer) is of central relevance…Even though the German word is identical, it must be distinguished from Unternehmer as used in §§ 631 et seq.

By the way, I don’t understand why section 14, in theory identical to the online translation, capitalizes the word partnership:

An entrepreneur means a natural or legal person or a Partnership with legal personality who or which, when entering into a legal transaction, acts in exercise of his or its trade, business or profession.

The online BGB translation is often criticized by translators, but they can’t usually give examples of what they mean. Nor do I feel able to criticize them off the cuff – it’s only on the rare occasions when a specific section is problematic that it strikes me. I am giving the Unternehmer example to show how useful a commentary is.

3. Why does it say on the cover and title page “Article-by-Article Commentary”? Surely these are sections in English?

4. I love German commentaries. They are huge tomes with all sorts of details on the law, section by section. If you really need details on this Code, are not near a German law library and find this volume too expensive, I would recommend buying a used copy of Palandt’s commentary in German. Not dated before 2002, when the Code was greatly changed, but it need not be new. Here’s a screenshot from abebooks today, showing you could get the 2007 version most cheaply. There are later ones available too. I used to pick one up at a students’ bookshop in Germany.

It would answer most questions of the meaning of the Code.

5. This commentary is intended for English-speaking lawyers who know little German or little German law. It has a full introduction putting the Code in historical context. Each section has the original German (dated 2018 I think), the online translation and a number of notes under subheadings. There may be notes on the translation and on EU law.

6. I should repeat what I’ve written before, that the terminology of the BGB is consistent in what now seems an unnatural way. Many criticisms of the translations are based on a misunderstanding – they find a term unnatural and don’t realize it has to be consistent throughout, just like the original. This is why, as I’ve written before too, there must be footnotes. And this volume more than generously provides them.

Dietl/Lorenz DE>EN new edition

You can buy this dictionary, or will soon be able to, in the paper version or as an Acolada digital version (already available) – I see it’s possible to rent it online for an annual fee. The Acolada version can be combined with other reference works, including Kettler’s dictionary of Intellectual Property and Creifelds.

Buch. Hardcover (In Leinen)
6. Auflage. 2020
Rund 1102 S
C.H.BECK. ISBN 978-3-406-60914-5
(In Gemeinschaft mit Matthew Bender/New York und Helbing & Lichtenhahn/Basel)
Format (B x L): 16,0 x 24,0 cm

This is the 6th edition. The 5th is out of print.

If you are using a paper dictionary, I remember this and Romain both being quite time-consuming to use. The digital version will at least find your word promptly.

I have a problem with dictionaries nowadays. The updates are not always very comprehensive, or at least they don’t contain new information that is very useful for me. For example, the latest DE>EN Romain contained a large number of updates to include feminine terms. Maybe it used to say Rechtsanwalt and now it says Rechtsanwalt/Rechtsanwältin. I am afraid this had little effect on my use of the dictionary. My copy eventually fell apart and I then bought a second-hand copy of the earlier edition (3rd ed., 1994). This does the job for me. I think there may be a successor to Romain in the pipeline but have no information on this.