One of my favorite books in our collection is featured in the July/August issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine. Justin Zaremby (Yale Law School Class of 2010) wrote "Marginalia" about a heavily annotated copy of Sir Edward Coke's First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England (1633), commonly known as Coke on Littleton. Zaremby was the lead curator on our recent exhibit, "Life and Law in Early Modern Europe." Read the complete article here.
In his article, Zaremby notes that "Marginalia allowed lawyers to update their printed books with references to recent cases, statutes, and treatises." Coke's infamously dense and erudite work is itself a collection of marginalia or glosses on the early classic of English property law, Thomas Littleton's Tenures. A contemporary of Coke's, John Aubrey, joked that "The world expected from him a Commentary on Littleton's Tenures; and he left them his Common-place book." One of this volume's annotators was Samuel Butler (1612-1680), author of Hudibras, a satire on the Puritans that was one of the best-sellers in late 17th-century England. A later owner was H. Buxton Forman (1842-1917), who collaborated with Thomas J. Wise on some of the most notorious literary forgeries of modern times.
I first saw this fascinating book a couple of years before my arrival at Yale, and I was thrilled to be able to finally acquire it in 2009. I'm even more thrilled that Justin put it to such good use.
Rare Book Librarian
Landmarks of Law Reporting 5 -- Sir Edward Coke and "The Reports"
Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), Les Reports de Edvvard Coke l’Attorney Generall le Roigne ... (London, 1600?).
Sir Edward Coke's Reports are perhaps the most influential reports in the history of English law, so much so that they are cited simply as "The Reports." Their authority rests mainly on the high reputation of their author, and not on their accuracy or objectivity. Coke was not shy about inserting his own views, and set out not only to report the law but also to teach it. His vast learning spills out, rendering reports that are often disorderly.
The first volume of Coke's Reports appeared in about 1600 (shown here), and met with such success that ten more volumes appeared in the next fifteen years. Legal historian T.F.T. Plucknett believes Coke may have been the first to report cases with the intent of publishing them soon after. When Coke was dismissed as a judge of King’s Bench in 1616, his political enemies (of which he had many) launched an investigation into alleged errors in the Reports, effectively halting his law reporting.
Coke on his Reports
"And now that I have taken upon myself to make a report of their arguments, I ought to do the same as fully, truly, and sincerely as possibly I can ; howbeit, seeing that almost every Judge had in the course of, his argument a particular method, and I must only hold myself to one, I shall give no just offense to any if I challenge that which of right is due to every Reporter, that is, to reduce the sum and effect of all to such a method as, upon consideration had of all the arguments, the Reporter himself thinketh to be fittest and clearest for the right understanding of the true reason and causes of the judgment and resolution of the case in question." -- Sir Edward Coke, Calvin's Case, 8 Rep. 4a
Rare Book Librarian
"Landmarks of Law Reporting" is on display April through October 2009 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.