La Nouvelle Natura Brevium.
London, Richard Tottell, 1553.
8vo. ff. (xxiv) 271 (i). Black letter, title within lovely woodcut border comprising compartment with mask and cornucopiae at head, female figures and vases at sides, half goats below (Mckerrow and Ferguson 82). Small hole to upper outer corner of border, contemporary manuscript notes (probably acquisition note and price) at fore edge, on verso three lines in very neat secretary hand at foot, C18th autograph of Laurence Holker along outer margin, extensive contemporary annotations in two distinct hands covering last leaf (blank except for small imprint on verso); very light age browning else clean and good. In contemporary calf rebacked, renewed e.p.s., a.e.r., Holker’s autograph 1746 on fly, ‘Shadgrove’ (Wadgrove?) also C18th, beneath.
Fitzherbert (1470-1538) of Gray’s Inn, justice of the Court of Common Please, was one of the most notable legal writers of the C16th, producing many of the most authoritative and enduring English law books for practitioners and students alike. The present work was more or less continuously in print between its first appearance in 1534 and 1794 and his Boke of Justice of the Peace enjoyed a similar life. Fitzherbert’s knowledge of the law was profound, he had a strong logical faculty and the rarest of legal writers’ gifts, the power of clear and lucid exposition. His explanations and directions were comprehensible even to those with the most basic knowledge of the law.
The Nouvelle Natura Brevium is basically a manual of procedure in which are set out the forms of writ for all the different varieties of action. No less an authority than Coke called it “an exact work exquisitely penned”. Getting the right writ, and getting the writ right were the basic essentials of Elizabethan litigation. If either was wrong the litigant was going nowhere, except back to the start to try again. A valuable volume for students and practitioners alike. “The Natura Brevium is esteemed an exact work, excellently well penned and had been much admired by the noted men in the Common law” Ant. à Wood.