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


Nomo-Lexicon (1670)

First published in 1670, Nomolexicon proved to be Thomas Blount's (1618–1679) most important work. He based it largely upon The Interpreter by John Cowell (1554–1611), but went beyond merely updating the terminology by including word usage, etymologies and sources. A scholarly book, it also proved to be very popular, encouraging pirated competitors. It remained the standard law dictionary until the publication of Giles Jacob's New Law-Dictionary in 1729.

Blount, Thomas. Nomo-Lexicon: A Law–Dictionary Interpreting Such Difficult and Obscure Words and Terms as are found in Either in Our Common or Statute, Ancient or Modern Lawes with References to the Several Statutes, Records, Registers, Law–Books, Charters, Ancient Deeds, and Manuscripts, Wherein the Words are Used: And Etymologies, where They Properly Occur. 1st ed. London: Printed by Tho. Newcomb for John Martin and Henry Herringman, 1670.

"Malefesence" to "Manumission," Thomas Blount, Nomo-Lexicon, 1670.

A Philologicall Commentary (1658)

First published in 1652, Edward Leigh (1603–1671) designed his dictionary for the use of students and compiled it from a variety of sources such as Sir Thomas Littleton (c.1407–1481), Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634), Anthony Fitzherbert (1470–1538) and John Cowell (1554–1611). Considered a minor work lacking in originality and comprehensiveness, this second edition was the last produced.

Leigh, Edward. A Philologicall Commentary: or, An Illustration of the Most Obvious and Useful Words in the Law, With Their Distinctions and Divers Acceptations, As They Are Found as well in Reports Antient and Modern, as in Records and Memorials never Printed: Usefull for All Young Students of the Law. 2nd ed. rev. and enl. London: A.M. for Charles Adams 1658.

Les Termes de la Ley (1671)

Originally published in 1527 under the title Exposiciones Terminorum Legum Anglorum, John Rastell's (1508–1565) book was translated and published in English as Les Termes de la Ley by his son, William, beginning in 1647. A popular work, multiple versions of the English edition followed. Ultimately, the book was superseded by larger and more elaborate dictionaries such as John Cowell's (1554–1611) Interpreter. This copy includes multiple markings by prior owners.

Rastell, John. Les Termes de la Ley, Or, Certain Difficult and Obscure Words and Terms of the Common Laws and Statutes of this Realm Now in Use Expounded and Explained. London: Printed by John Streater, James Flesher, and Henry Twyford, Assigns of Richard Atkins and Edward Atkins, 1671.

Inscription on the front pastedown of John Rastell's Les Termes de la Ley, 1671: "Richard Chamberlin His book 1708. If my pen had benn but bettur, I wold amend Every lettur."