Friday, October 23, 2020

English Manuscript Law Reports: A Query from Sir John Baker

[We have the following query from Professor Sir John Baker.  H/t: Michael Widener.  DRE.]

English Manuscript Law Reports

Over the course of my professional life as a legal historian, I have become aware both of the immense importance of unpublished law reports in the history of the common law and of the difficulty in finding them for want of adequate catalogues. The Selden Society has commissioned a descriptive catalogue, and work is under way to assemble and edit the descriptions of the thousand or so items of which we are currently aware. I have compiled lists over the years for my own use, and, since they include volumes found in librarians’ cupboards and on uncatalogued shelves, I am sure there must be other manuscripts which have not come to my attention in this rather random way. It would be a great service to scholarship if librarians could draw our attention to any manuscripts which might be included and which are not noticed in my English Legal Manuscripts in the U.S.A. The catalogue will cover the period 1500 to 1800 and will be limited to original reports of legal arguments, excluding trials, precedents of pleading, and commonplace books derived solely from printed sources. In cases of doubt, I will be glad to help with identification. Please send any information which might be helpful, including questions, to me at

John Baker
(Professor Sir John Baker, Cambridge)