Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2018 Issue

Ever Wondered Where English Law Comes From? This Book Provides the Answer

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For those with an interest in learning from whence came English law, The Lawbook Exchange has published a paperback edition of a book that takes us back to the days when people used words like "whence." You may think English law comes from a series of statutes and codes developed by parliamentarians and kings. Actually, it just kind of grew like Topsy. It mostly was a haphazard collection of individual cases that set the precedents now known as "common law."

 

Before we go any farther, and lose your interest, we need to point out that Thomas Lund has written his book for regular people, not legal scholars and practitioners of the law. The title is The Creation of the Common Law. The Medieval Year Books Deciphered. Even legal scholars will appreciate Lund's deciphering. The Year Books, which cover the critical development of English law, were published from around 1268-1535. If you have ever attempted to read Chaucer, who wrote during this era, you will understand the importance of deciphering the English of that day into the English we know now.

 

Prior to the Year Books, there were hard-to-find records of some case law in England. In the 12th century, Ranulf de Glanvill wrote essentially the first English law book, though it was more focused on procedure. Henry de Bracton wrote a much better compilation of case law in the 13th century, which brings us to the era of the Year Books. These are accounts of court cases over the next several centuries which were the primary foundation of English common law. In a time before written legal codes, each case that was tried became legal precedent. Judges facing disputes between parties would look to previously decided cases to decide what was the right decision. In this manner, English law developed from case to case, without benefit of anyone having to pass laws to cover every conceivable dispute.

 

So what is the point of learning about the development of the common law now, when all sorts of governmental entities are passing laws as fast as they can write them? The reality is that common law still is applied where no intervening statutes have been passed, and much of the legislative law was based on common law in the first place. It simply codified long established principles. These cases help to explain why our law is what it is today, why we resolve various types of disputes in the way we do.

 

That brings us back to the part about "deciphering." The Year Books may be technically accessible, but not in a practical sense. The arcane writings will confound anyone but scholars of both medieval English (the language) and medieval English law. That covers 99 and some very large fraction percent of the population. Lund has not simply updated the language, but has paraphrased, condensed, organized, and explained the cases so that modern readers can make sense of these ancient texts. Here is where you will be able to follow the evolution of English law from its earliest days to the point where it forms the basis of the law today. It is a fascinating journey, and as said before, you need not be a scholar to take this trip. Everyone is welcome.

 

You may order the paperback edition of this book at the following link: www.lawbookexchange.com/details.php?record=68668.

 

The hardcover version may be ordered here: www.lawbookexchange.com/details.php?record=63383.

 

Both pages also provide links to ask a question.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
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    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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