Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New acquisition: heavily annotated volume of Coke's Reports

Along with his Institutes of the Laws of England, Sir Edward Coke's great contribution to English legal literature was his Law Reports. Ultimately printed in thirteen volumes, the Reports were not case reports in the way we now conceive of them, with the legal reasoning and final determination by the justice(s). Rather, the focus was on the pleadings-the back and forth between the lawyers and judge as the issues in the case were crystallized.

This new acquisition is the first edition of the eighth part of the Reports, published in London in 1611. It is in Law French and contains many well-known cases, including Dr. Bonham's Case, often referenced as a source of authority for judicial review of legislative acts. The book is lovely with its contemporary binding, wide margins, and beautiful printing. What makes it most interesting, however, are the extensive annotations. There are underlined passages, marginal notes, and portions of reports where the text is keyed to detailed commentary, allowing modern researchers to see how a contemporary reader engaged with the text.