Friday, January 27, 2012

Croke's Reports

Professor Daniel R. Coquillette, namesake of our beautiful rare book room and benefactor extraordinaire, recently donated a full set of Croke’s Reports (London, 1683) with original bindings. Also included in this generous gift is a single volume from an earlier 1657 edition of the Reports.

Sir George Croke (c. 1560-1642) was a judge under Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, and one volume is dedicated to each of their reigns. The reports were written by Croke in French, reporting on the cases that he had heard as judge or collected from other lawyers. Croke’s son-in-law, Sir Harebottle Grimston, revised and published the reports in English in the years following Croke’s death. The 1657 volume, mentioned above, covers the cases that Croke heard during the reign of Charles I.

The full set of Croke’s Reports has a fabulous provenance: the books were owned by Levi Lincoln (1749-1820) and contain marginalia in his hand. In the photo above, you can see Lincoln's signature in the upper right-hand corner. The page pictured is the first case reported in volume 1, which covers the reign of Elizabeth I. Levi Lincoln was a 1772 graduate of Harvard College and fought for the Patriots in the American Revolution. After the Revolution, he became a Massachusetts Judge of Probate and was one of the Drafters of the Massachusetts Constitution. In 1781, he declined election to the Continental Congress in favor of becoming a distinguished practitioner. Levi Lincoln was instrumental in representing black clients in the key slavery cases of 1781, where it was determined that holding African-Americans to slavery in Massachusetts violated the Bill of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.

In 1800, Lincoln was elected to the United States Congress. He was re-elected in 1802 but declined his seat when Thomas Jefferson appointed him Attorney General of the United States (1801-1804). He soon returned to political life in Massachusetts, even serving as governor following the death in office of James Sullivan. In 1812, he was offered a place on the United States Supreme Court by President Madison, but declined because of failing eyesight. His two sons, Levi and Enoch, both had distinguished political careers.

Many, many thanks to Professor Coquillette for donating these lovely volumes to our collection.

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