THE WORD MUSEUM: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk is the usual oddball assortment you get in books of this sort (burying-drink, a drink given out at funerals; sandillion, as many as there are grains of sand on a beach; maulifluff, a woman without energy) though some, such as resurrectionist and witch-mark, are hardly that forgotten. Unfortunately the entries don’t indicate the era the word comes from and I have no idea how reliable the Derived From discussions are (given how many of such turn out to be full of baloney) so it falls short as a work of scholarship, or as one I’d use for reference writing historical material. Fun, though.
EMERGENCE OF A FREE PRESS by Leonard Levy reworks and expands his earlier revisionist history Legacy of Suppression (which Levy says is still correct but not as correct as he thought at the time), arguing that contrary to stereotype, the Founding Fathers’ generation took a very dim view of press criticism of the government, having been raised in the tradition of English common law where “seditious libel” was only different by degree from plotting treason. As Levy shows, even after the famous Zenger case established truth as a defense (in contrast to the English assumption that making true charges of evil-doing was worse, as it would create worse unrest), it had very little impact on common, written or case-law. Levy admits that in practice, the press could get away with much more than the law makes it sound, particularly if they had strong public support (targeting unpopular politicians for instance), but counters this doesn’t say any more about what the law allowed than the use of pot reflects the law. Interesting, and it would make a great background for a historic fantasy (even if I don’t have one to fit at the present) but much dryer than Levy’s Origins of the Fifth Amendment.