SAINT GERMAN, Christopher

SAINT GERMAN, Christopher The fyrste dyalogue in Englysshe, wyth newe addycyons. [with] The secunde dyalogue i[n] englysshe wyth new addycyons. [with] Here after foloweth a lytell treatise called the newe addicions.

London, R. Wyer, in Southwarke by Peter Treueris, Thomas Bertheletus, 1531


8vo. 3 works in one volume. 1) ff. lxxviii [ii] 2) ff. 166, [vi]. 3) ff. 22 [ie 32] leaves ;  8 . Black Letter. Woodcut royal arms on first title-page, small woodcut on verso of last of St. John the Evangelist with xylographic ‘Robert Wyer’ below, small woodcut initials some white on black, small woodcut of Christ and the trinity on verso of last page of text in second work, title of third part within woodcut border, ’Will Stamfold’ in contemporary hand at head of t-p, another below, ‘John Thrower of ..’ in early hand on verso of last, contemporary note partially rubbed out on verso of last of second work (small hole just affecting on letter on verso) ‘John Colinye’ in later hand below, C19th mss ex dono to Mr Samuellson on fly. Very light age yellowing, first title very slightly dusty, light marginal stain or spot in a few places. Very good copies, crisp and clean in seventeenth century speckled English calf, covers double blind ruled to a panel design, blind fleurons to outer corners, initials GB gilt stamped at centres, rebacked, spine with raised bands gilt ruled in compartments, a.e.r.

Rare second edition in English of an extremely important work in the history of English law. First published in 1528 as Dialogus de fundamentis legum Anglie et de conscientia, St German’s influential dialogue between a Doctor of Law and a student was first published in English in 1530. The present edition (the second), further revised, is bound with the similarly revised second edition of the Second dialogue first published by Treveris at the end of November 1530. The work is an investigation of the inter-relationship between the foundations of English law and conscience, cast in the form of an exchange between a doctor (or teacher) and a student. This form is kept in the English translation. ‘The New addicions’ printed by Berthelet form a separate piece, and these thirteen chapters are concerned with parliament’s jurisdiction in spiritual matters.

“Christopher Saint Germain was a legal writer and controversialist, born about 1460, was educated at Oxford, as a member, it is said, of Exeter College. He then entered the Inner Temple, where he studied law and was called to the bar. As a rule Saint-German avoided politics, and confined himself to legal and literary work, and to the collection of a library which exceeded that of any other lawyer. In religious matters Saint-German was a moderate reformer. Saint-German is, however, chiefly remembered as author of ‘Doctor and Student,’ a handbook for legal students, which was not superseded until the appearance of Blackstone’s ‘Commentaries.’ This work was first issued by Rastell in 1523 in Latin, under the title ‘Dialogus de Fundamentis Legum et de Conscientia.’ Herbert possessed a copy, but none is now known to be extant. Another edition was published by Rastell in 1528. An English translation, entitled ‘A Fyrste Dialoge in Englysshe,’ was brought out in 1531 by Wyer, and a ‘Second Dialoge in Englysshe’ was published by Peter Treveris in 1530. Both these were printed in 1532 ‘with new addycions’. Subsequent editions were numerous.”DNB

The Dialogue“was of enormous importance. It appeared just before the secularisation of the Chancery by Henry VIII, and emphasised and preserved those rules of equity derived from canon law in a format readily understandable by common lawyers and all learned men. In so doing, it laid the foundation for English equity jurisprudence. Although St. German was technically a common lawyer, his work was influenced by civilian ideas both through and apart from the obvious canonist influences. St. German may also have been influenced by the continental Bartolists, who tested the rules of the secular civil law with cases of ‘conscience’. He attempted to do the same with the English common law as applicable ‘secular’ law. The result was a pioneer excursion into comparative law and a brilliant attempt to analyse the legitimate sources of English law.  St. Germain was firmly patriotic, anti-clerical and conservative; but, unlike Littleton, he boldly and critically analyzed the sources of the English national law. His object was mutual reinforcement between custom and reason, nationalism and learning. His true heir would be Francis Bacon” Daniel R. Coquillette. ‘Comparative Studies in Continental and Anglo-American Legal History’.

A very good copy of this rare and important work complete with all three parts.

1) ESTC S104738. STC 21562. 2) ESTC S104655. STC 21566. 3) ESTC S110793. STC 21563.
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