Modus tenendi unum Hundredum sive Curiam de Recordo

London, William Myddleton, 1547.

£3,250

8vo. 14 unnumbered leaves. A8 B6 lacking final blanks. Black letter, attractive title with Royal arms between white on black woodcut borders; upper foliage with Puck (?); lower foliage with man fighting a dragon, another similar to upper on verso of last, large white on black initial. C.19 library stamp on blank verso of title and blank outer margin of last, a very good crisp copy in C19 panelled calf by Harley of London, a.e.r.

In the Middle Ages the Hundred was a subdivision of a county chiefly important for its local court of justice. It had jurisdiction for trespass, covenant and debt if less than forty shillings and in these civil cases the freeholders of the hundred acted as judges. At the twice yearly full court where the criminal business was transacted the Sheriff or Lord of the hundred was sole judge. These arrangements are credited to Alfred by William of Malmesbury but may well have existed earlier. Certainly from Alfred’s time until the C.16 the hundred court was the most important place of redress for the common people. However, the monetary value of its jurisdiction was not enlarged and due to the rampant inflation caused by overspending Tudor governments its practical importance declined rapidly in the later C16, though it lingered on until the legal reforms of the Victorians.

It is significant that this is the last edition of the standard and probably only work on hundred Court procedure; its obsolescence precluded reprinting. The text is in Norman-French notwithstanding the Latin title. Although it ran through a number of editions from the 1520’s onwards, all are now rare, many known only by a single copy. Myddleton succeeded Redman in his house by St. Dunstan’s after his widow’s remarriage and like Redman produced a significant number of legal texts, of which this is one of the rarest.

STC 7734a (2 copies in Britain; Harvard, Library of Congress and University of Minnesota in the US). Beale T 216. Ames III 1689.

SN2618

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