Law Text Culture


The archive is in significant part the melancholic record of death. It harbours coffins, tombs and tomes. An image, first, of an untimely death. Part of a personal archive, the record of time long since spent. Shards of a history that did not happen. A shadow. A shade. Dr Ewan Maclean, a figure of encyclopedic learning and aesthetic inclinations, did his doctorate on art forgery. I knew him, and I had admired his knowledge and his thesis while studying in Edinburgh. He was short, bald, bibliophilic, brilliant but boring and in consequence unmemorable and prone to alcohol and an academic diffidence that led to his joining the civil service and moving to London at around the same time that I was appointed to Birkbeck to set up the law department. Ewan was working on miscarriages of justice and so I asked him to tutor for the new school. He did so rather unsuccessfully for a year or two, only really at ease, so I felt, when drinking with students after class. He never applied for a permanent position. He left London to return to Scotland. Before leaving he gave me a gift, a book, The Addicts Archive, or actually The Film Addicts Archive (Oakes 1977). Then, back in Edinburgh, surrounded by art and books, he drank himself to death. He was cremated at 1pm on August 28, 2013. He left little behind, scarcely a trace or registration, a tentative or inebriate and evaporating ichnological inscription.