REFERENCE GUIDE ON PLEADING AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
London, Richard Pynson, 28th February 1510.
FIRST EDITION, folio, ff. 185 (i). Black letter, xylographic title in red and black with delightful grotesque woodcut initial, contemporary autograph ‘W Crofton’ at head, full page woodcut of Royal arms supported by angels on verso, later C16 Italic autograph of Edmund Stradling above, attractive initials and typographical ornaments. Printer’s very fine white on black device (McKerrow 9) within ornate border of figures, birds and foliage on verso of last. Two-line acquisition note beneath in handsome Tudor hand of William Crofton recording his purchase of the volume from the London bookseller and printer Robert Redman on 15 February 1539 for the very substantial sum of ten shillings. First and last leaves a bit foxed, mostly marginal, light water stain to some edges, a good clean well-margined copy in early C19 Russia, large panels with lozenge-shaped hatching incorporating Tudor roses, old repair to lower joint and upper compartment of spine.
First edition of a major English post-incunable incorporating an important legal text. The Intrationum liber or ‘Book of Entries’ was one of the essential practitioner’s books of early legal printing. It comprises the precedents for most forms of legal proceedings then in use, in real, personal and mixed actions, civil and criminal, as well as valuable information on the preparation of writs and execution. The anonymous author drew his material from the unpublished plea rolls (the name refers to the entries made on them by the court clerks), a fundamental source for English legal history.
The difficulties and technicalities of the common law were met by what became known as special pleading, an art of the utmost nicety depending on an important complex system of rules. If one’s pleadings were incorrectly framed or particularised, then however strong one’s case at law it was bound to fail and one had to start over again. This was the Tudor pleader’s best and most extensive source of reference.
Sir John Baker notes the ‘old entries are the least used of all early law books, but they are replete with learning which, though difficult to extract, the historian ignores at his cost’, Introduction to English Legal History, pp. 160-161. Indeed they reveal much about the substantive law of the c16 that cannot be found elsewhere.
Pynson was one of the greatest early English printers. The worthiest of Caxton’s successors, he printed works of the highest standard and finest execution. This is a handsome example. Interestingly, when Pynson died, Redman, his main competitor in the production of law books, moved his premises to Pynson’s old shop, where William Crofton purchased this volume.
STC 14116, Beale T283, Ames II p. 441 “this very rare book”, citing Herbert some 200 years ago. Maxwell I p. 182, Lowndes 1163.