Legal Works from the 16th and 17th Centuries from The Lawbook Exchange
By Michael Stillman
Catalogue 60 is the latest presentation from The Lawbook Exchange of Clark, New Jersey. This catalogue is subtitled, Recently Acquired Books, Manuscripts and Ephemera, Featuring a Wide Range of Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Continental Treatises. This is an exceptional resource for those who collect early books on the law. You will find everything here from broad discussions of the law going back to Roman times to detailed treatises on very specific legal topics. There are even a few sensational items, such as accounts of trials for various nefarious activities. If it is related to the law, and from long ago, you will find it here. These are a few samples.
Item 18 is a copy of the first text on English law: Henry de Bracton's De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae. You know it's old when they were still publishing books on English law in Latin, though this 1640 printing actually came some four centuries after the work was written. They weren't printing much in the 13th century, so this is just a second edition, following the first of 1569. Bracton had access to the legal records of England around 1250, which allowed him to compile this first account of the laws and customs of England. He distinguishes between rules of procedure and substance, and provides reasoning and authority for the various judicial decisions of the time. Priced at $1,250.
Item 28 is another text on English law, and this covers a pioneering field for the British - elections. There weren't too many nations worrying about the law of elections in 1713, but democracy, or at least some form, came early to the English. Offered is a second edition of The Law of Elections, Being an Abstract of All the Statutes now in Force Relating to the Election of Members to Serve in the House of Commons. $1,500.
Here is another text on British laws, but it is not one concerning voters: A Treatise of Feme Coverts: or the Lady's Law. This is a first edition published in 1732. "Feme Coverts" covered virtually all women besides widows and divorcees (which is to say, women who were under the guardianship of a male head of the household). Women weren't worrying about voting in this era, but about basic issues of property and contracts at a time when women had very few rights. Item 43. $3,000.
This is a collection of pleadings relating to criminal law in Scotland back in the 17th century: Pleadings, In some remarkable Cases, Before the Supreme Courts of Scotland, Since the Year, 1661. Compiled by Sir. George Mackenzie, it covers many issues of the day, including witchcraft. Mackenzie reproduces and comments upon the pleadings in these cases. Item 53 is the third and final edition, from 1704, of a work first published in 1672. $950.