William & Mary

British and Colonial Antecedents of American Liberties:

An exhibition of rare books on early American law from the collection of Sid Lapidus at the Wolf Law Library, William & Mary Law School, October 1, 2019 – March 15, 2020


A View of the Civile and Ecclesiasticall Law (1634)

One of the earliest books on the subject, Sir Thomas Ridley (b. before 1548–1629) composed his View as a response to the increasing restrictions common law placed upon civil and ecclesiastical law. He begins with a discussion of the components of civil and canon law and follows with the wide array of subjects within their jurisdiction. In discussing topics such as Admiralty, foreign treaties, and defamation, the work expresses the expertise of the author in a concise, readable manner.

Ridley, Sir Thomas. A View of the Civile and Ecclesiasticall Law: And Wherein the Practice of Them is Streitned, and May be Releeved Within This Land. 2nd ed. Oxford: Printed by William Turner, 1634.

The Historie of Tithes (1618)

The Historie of Tithes, perhaps the most influential and controversial work by John Selden (1584–1654), addresses the issue of the divine right to impose tithes and the role of lay patronage in the church. Based on extensive research of original sources, Selden's tract denies the sovereignty of canon law (except in spiritual matters), arguing instead that common law directed and defined the limits of canon law. This argument was the first to expose the widening gulf between seventeenth century reason and faith.

Selden, John. The Historie of Tithes, That is, the Practice of Payment of Them, the Positive Laws Made for Them, the Opinions Touching the Right of Them, a Review of It is Also Annext, Which Both Confirmes it and Directs in the Use of It. 1st ed., variant A. London: [S.n.], 1618.

Cases and Questions Resolved in the Civil-Law (1652)

One of the founders of modern international law, Richard Zouch (1590–1661) designed his casebook for the civil law student. The fact situations derive from the text of Justinian's Digest. Zouch specifically chose to have it printed in English, rather than the Latin more typical of his works, in the hope the language would render the book more useful to readers with a common law background. This was the only edition published.

Zouch, Richard. Cases and Questions Resolved in the Civil-Law. Oxford: Printed by Leon. Lichfield for Tho. Robinson, 1652.

Notes in Richard Zouch's Cases and Questions Resolved in the Civil-Law, 1652.

Notes in Richard Zouch's Cases and Questions Resolved in the Civil-Law, 1652.