Page images

was printed in the life-time of Littleton, or within a year after his death, and has never yet been made use of in any edition of the Commentary. For the use of these two most curious and scarce editions of Littleton, the editor is indebted to the kindness of one, whose name he should think it an honour to be at liberty to mention. The editor is also provided with the curious editions of Littleton by Pynson and Redman, which are the next in date to the Rohan edition. He is possessed too of an edition in 1534 by Rastell, and of most of the other editions of Littleton, which are very numerous; but these latter, not being of so great authority, will seldom be consulted. It is proper to add, that the editor proposes to give the various readings of four or five of the earliest editions of Littleton, which has never been attempted before. But no various readings will be given, except where they appear to the editor substantially to affect the sense of the author*; and therefore the reader will not find any in the first section; the difference of the several editions, so far as regards that section, being apparently quite immaterial. As to references, those in the first, second, and other editions of Sir Edward Coke's Commentary before the tenth, having been made by Sir Edward Coke himself, will be wholly retained, with such corrections only of apparent mistakes as shall occur to the editor, Many of the additional references in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth editions will also be retained; it being intended only to omit such as the editor shall discover to be plainly foreign to the purpose. The editor is aware, that even some of Sir Edward Coke's own references have been complained of as not pertinent; which, when the prodigious number of them, and the great variety of public and private affairs which commanded his attention through life, are considered, may be accounted for, without any great reflection on his care and accuracy. But the editor would deem it a presumption


* This may seem not quite consistent with sometimes giving the word Nota as a various reading; but the reason of it is, that Littleton is thought by Sir Edward Coke to use the word Nota in a sense peculiarly significant. See Co. Litt, 22. a. The various readings of Littleton, taken from the edition by Lettou and Mechlinia, will be distinguished by L. and M. those from the Rohan edition by Roh. those from Pynson's edition by P. and those from Redman's edition by Red. and if a reading should be taken from any other edition, it will be particularly mentioned. In Redman's edition there are references to cases in some of the more ancient Year Books, which it was once intended to have given as part of the various readings from Redman; but on re-consideration they do not appear of sufficient consequence to be taken notice of.

in him to omit any part of the original work; though, in respect to the references, such a liberty is in very numerous instances taken in the twelfth edition * ; and besides, he would by no means be understood to engage for an examination of every reference with the book cited, which is a task far greater than his other avocations will allow him to engage int. Further, it is proposed by the editor, to give some additional references, particularly to the reports published since the twelfth edition; and some notes; but he avoids promising a great number of either, lest he should undertake more than he may hereafter be able to accomplish. However, in order to make amends for the smallness of the number of new notes and references , great care shall be taken in the choice of them : and they shall be so expressed, as clearly to show whether they tend to confirm, to question, to contradict, or to illustrate the doctrine advanced in the text; a distinction very requisite for the convenience and information of the reader, though in new editions of


The editor has not yet found such a liberty taken in any edition, except the twelfth; but in that the omission of lord Coke's references is very frequent indeed, and he doubts whether many pages can be found without instances of it. In several pages he finds twenty or thirty references omitted, and in some forty or fifty. The truth of this will appear by examining fol. 4. b. and 5. a. of the twelfth edition with the same folios in any preceding one. The editor would not be so early in making this observation, if it was not with a view to show, how unaccountable it is, that notwithstanding this suppression of a great part of the authorities, on which lord Coke founds his opinions, the twelfth edition should sell for six pounds, whilst the price of some of the more early editions, though they contain the whole of the original work, and therefore are infinitely more valuable, is scarcely as many shillings.

+ It is necessary to mention this, lest the continuation of those mistaken references by lord Coke, which are to be found in all the former editions, should be imputed to the inattention of the editor of the present edition, and as a negligence not consistent with his engagements to the public. The editor may add, that many of the mistakes are of such a kind, that to correct them, and to refer to the books or authorities intended, would exceed his utmost diligence and power.

At first the editor doubted, whether it would be in his power to give the time necessary for writing many notes and references; but this first number of the work, he hopes, will convince his readers, how anxious he is to furnish a great number; and he will exert himself to the utmost in order to continue the work on the same enlarged plan. Having engaged in the undertaking, he is resolved at all events to make great sacrifices, rather than suffer it tą languish in his hands.

a 4

Jaw-books too frequently neglected. In the eleventh and twelfth editions, the new references are not distinguished from Sir Edward Coke's; but in this present edition it is thought proper to acquaint the reader, which belong to him and which to his respective editors; and for that purpose, the additional references taken from the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth editions will be enclosed between parentheses; and those, with the notes by the editor of this edition, with the various readings of Littleton, will be referred to by figures, and placed at the bottom of the page. Such a discrimination is a justice due to those from whom the references proceed, particularly to Sir Edward Coke ; and, at the same time, must be a satisfaction to the reader.—The eleventh and truelfth editions contain some notes and additions, showing the alterations in the laws since the time of Sir Edward Coke, which were printed separately at the end of the work. This has been found inconvenient; and therefore, in the present edition, they will be placed in the margin of the book where they respectively apply; except such of them as the editor shall find improper to be retained, or such as shall consist of extracts from acts of parliament, which, being too long for marginal insertion, will be omitted; and it is hoped, that the omission of those extracts will not be disapproved of, as a short reference to the statutes themselves, with an intimation that they have altered the law, will be substituted, which will equally answer the purpose of apprizing the reader *.-In all the former editions, the French text of Littleton's Tenures, and the whole of Sir Edward Coke's Commentary, were printed in the black letter; but in this edition only Roman and Italic letters will be used, which, it is presumed, will be both an agreeable and useful alteration in the printing ; the black letter being generally deemed less pleasing, and more fatiguing to the sight, than either of the others.-In respect to the Index to the First Institute, it is at present intended that it shall be the same as in the eleventh and twelfth editions ; the editor thinking that having already undertaken so much, it would be imprudent to pledge himself still further, by entering into any engagement for making additions to the Index.


* The notes added in the 11th and 12th editions, exclusive of extracts from acts of parliaments, are so few, that all put together scarcely amount to so inuch as the additional matter given by the editor of the present edition in his first number; and he is now doubtful, whether he shall retain any of them in their original form. However, if he should, they shall be distinguished in the manner above mentioned.

To the ninth and subsequent editions were added Sir Edward Coke's Readings on the Statute of Fines, and on Bail and Mainprize; to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth was added his Copyholder ; and to the two latter the Treatise of the Old Tenures was also added. All these tracts will be given in the present edition; but with this difference, that the Reading on the Statute of Fines will be in English, and the Treatise of Old Tenures, instead of being in French only, will be accompanied with the Old English translation, as printed at the end of the first edition of the Terms of the Law. The original French of the Old Tenures is continued on account of the great antiquity of the book; but in the printing, the black letter will not be used *.

Besides Sir Edward Coke's Tracts and the Old Tenures, the present edition will have an Analysis of Littleton, from a manuscript, dated 1658-9, which has never yet been printed. This Analysis is a methodical summary of Littleton, containing not only a general view of the whole work, but also a particular one of each chapter. It accidentally fell into the hands of the editor. He is not informed who was the author; but it appears to him to be judiciously and ingeniously executed, and worthy of publication; and he hopes that it will not be deemed an improper addition, more especially as it will neither occasion the suppression of any other matter, or increase the price of the work to the purchasers.

To the whole will be prefixed a new Preface, by the editor of the present edition. In this Preface, he proposes, in the first place, to consider the merit of Littleton's Tenures and Sir Edward Coke's Commentary, and to point out the excellencies of each ; in the next place, to give a particular account of the several editions of both; and lastly, to explain how this will differ from the former editions.

Such is the edition of Sir Edward Coke's First Institute, now submitted as a candidate for the public favour and encouragement; nor shall any exertion within the power of the editor be wanting to deserve them. He foresees that great pains and labour will be necessary to the effecting a due performance of his engagements, and that little fame can be expected from the most successful execution of an undertaking so humble as scarce to exceed that of

a mere

• [Towards the conclusion of this work it uus found advisable wholly to omit the republication of these tructs, being already printed in a separate octavo tolume.)

a mere editor. But still he looks forward with pleasure. His veneration for the names of Littleton and Coke; his admiration of their writings; his persuasion that an attentive contemplation of them, by the improvement it must produce, will be its own reward; and his zeal to be instrumental in exhibiting them to the public eye, pure, genuine, and undisguised, and with as many advantages as a faithful and industrious editor can bestow; these were the considerations which chiefly prompted him to commence the undertaking; and these, he trusts, will continue to animate him till it is completed. If by perseverance and an unremitting ardour, the editor should succeed in his endeavours, he will then have the pleasing satisfaction of reflecting, that his labours have been useful, instructive, and agreeable to himself, and, at the same time, not wholly unprofitable or unacceptable to the community.


« PreviousContinue »