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The Original Manuscript of Bracton's De legibus Did Not Survive

1250 to 1256
<p>British Library Add MS 11353.&nbsp;HENRICI de Bractone de legibus et consuetudinibus Anglicanis libri quatuor. Codex membranaceus, circa temp. Edw. I. [between 1272-1307]&nbsp;This opening page of a manuscript of&nbsp;<em>Bracton</em>&nbsp;is headed by a miniature of a king holding a sword in one hand and a sealed charter in the other.</p>

British Library Add MS 11353. HENRICI de Bractone de legibus et consuetudinibus Anglicanis libri quatuor. Codex membranaceus, circa temp. Edw. I. [between 1272-1307] This opening page of a manuscript of Bracton is headed by a miniature of a king holding a sword in one hand and a sealed charter in the other.

The incipit of HLS MS 1, Harvard Law School's copy of Bracton's De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, probably written around the year 1300. (View Larger)

Between 1250 and 1256, shortly after Magna Carta, English cleric and jurist Henry de Bracton (or Bretton or Bratton) edited De legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (On the Laws and Customs of England). 

"The outstanding common-law treatise of the Middle Ages, it is remarkable for its use of actual court decisons for illustrative purposes. It appears to have been written by a number of authors in the 1250's, with the last work being done on it by Henry de Bracton when he was a judge of the King's Bench."

The first edition of Bracton, printed in 1569 by Richard Tottel. (View Larger)

Bracton's original manuscript did not survive.

"There are approximately 49 surviving manuscripts of Bracton, many fragmentary or abridged. All date from the c14 or very late c13, and none is closer than third generation from the original." (quotations from Harvard Law School Library Bracton Online, accessed 12-30-2008).

 

"The treatise known as Bracton, composed in the wake of Magna Carta, is the most ambitious legal work from medieval England. Providing a survey of the application of the common law in the king’s courts, with citations of past cases, it focuses on property rights and criminal law. The treatise was formerly attributed to Henry of Bratton (1210–68), a justice in south-west England, but Henry was probably merely the reviser of an existing treatise, compiled during the 1220s and 1230s. Henry of Bratton may nonetheless have been responsible for adding the work’s second preface, which talks of men who are ‘foolish and insufficiently instructed, who climb the seat of judgment before learning the laws’." (https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/on-the-laws-and-customs-of-england).

Bracton's De Legibus was first published in print by Richard Tottel, London, 1569.

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