Writing this book has been a great source of personal satisfaction not only because I gained a new perspective on the history of the family in Brazil but also because, initially, I did not believe I could write eighteenth-century legal history. The difficulty of mastering a legal literature that has become obsolete was more than matched by the challenge of locating rare legal commentaries authored between the 1780s and the 1820s. Precisely those works defining the major primary source for this analysis were widely scattered over a number of libraries in Brazil, Portugal, and the United States. For that reason, this book owes its existence to the generosity and the tireless professionalism of librarians who worked with me to locate an obscure legal literature. Far beyond the assistance one normally expects, several librarians offered me the extraordinary help that literally made this book a reality.
Martha Siqueira Cavalcanti, at the old library of the Faculdade de Direito do Recife (FDR), unearthed a treasure of nineteenth-century commentaries, treatises, and dissertations and put them at my disposal during several visits in the early 1990s. For her cheerfulness and willingness to search the darkest corners of that wonderful and most unforgettable of Brazil's earliest libraries, I will be eternally grateful. Thanks to her, the pivotal writings of Manoel de Almeida e Souza de Lobão came into my hands, together with commentaries by half a dozen other Portuguese jurists. For quite a while, Lobão's Notas à Mello offered my only access to the primary source that was fundamental for the interpretive approach followed in this book, Paschoal José de Mello Freire's De jure personarum, Book 2 of his Institutiones civilis juris lusitani. That is, until Rachel Barreto Edensword, former librarian of the Oliveira Lima Library, at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., surprised me with an extremely rare copy of the earliest Brazilian translation of De jure personarum. The fact that Francisco Pereira Freire, its authorannotator, had been a professor at Recife's famous law faculty, and produced his translation for his students, seemed very appropriate.