Jus Sigilli, or, The Law of England, Touching His Majesties Four Principal Seales, viz. the Great Seale, the Privie Seale, the Exchequer Seale, and the Signet

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by John Brydall

Jus Sigilli

Title page from Jus Sigilli, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author John Brydall
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed by E. Flesher, for Thomas Dring and John Leigh
Date 1673
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [4], 129, [6]
Desc. 12mo (13 cm.)
Location Shelf F-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

John Brydall (Bridall) was born in Chatsworth, Devonshire in 1635 and lived at least until 1705 (the last known date of his published work).[1] He was the son of John Brydall, who was a lawyer and barrister at Lincoln's Inn (one of the four Inns of Court in London). The younger Brydall entered Queen's College in 1652 and graduated in 1655.[2] Prior to graduating, he joined Lincoln's Inn as 'heir app[arent]' of his father.[3] At some point in his legal career, it appears that he acted as secretary to Sir Harbottle Grimston, Master of the Rolls.[4] While one source indicates that by the time of his death he had authored thiry-six legal works, there seems to be some confusion between what he wrote and what his father may have written.[5]>

Jus Sigilli is a detailed description of the four principal seals of England which include the Great or Broad Seale, the Privie Seale, the Exchequer Seale and the Signet.[6] The Great or Broad Seale is used by the Lord Chancellor to denote the approval and authority of the king. Charters, commissions, or grants from the king must have the mark of the Great Seale in order to carry any authority.[7] The Privie or Little Seale — the monarch's personal seal[8] — was used by the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seale to authorize the use of the Great Seale on important documents, or as a authorization itself on documents of lesser importance.[9]

The Exchequer Seal is the seal used by the Court of the Exchequer, which "first convened in the 12th. century ... to examine and 'try' the accounts of the King's Revenues.[10] In Brydall's time, the Exchequer Seal was normally kept in the treasury[11] and represented the authority of the Crown in all Exchequer matters.[12]

The Signet is the personal seal of the Crown, with the Principal Secretary having custodial responsibilities. Personal letters, patents, or other matters derived directly from the Crown would receive the mark of the Signet. If the matter was of great importance, it would then move to the Lord Privy Seal and from there to the Lord Chancellor to receive the mark of the Great Seal.[13]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

When trying to identify the books Thomas Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress within the library's vast collection, E. Millicent Sowerby discovered a copy of Jus Sigilli with a manuscript note she attributed to George Wythe, "On page 9 is written the number 203 in what may be the handwriting of George Wythe."[14] Records of the Jefferson sale indicate he did sell a copy of the first edition (1673) of John Brydall's Jus Sigilli to the Library of Congress. Whether the book Sowerby identified was actually Wythe's, or in fact Jefferson's, is unknown. This Brydall title does not appear in the inventory of books Jefferson created upon receiving Wythe's library. Only one of the George Wythe Collection sources, Brown's Bibliography,[15] includes Jus Sigilli. Brown does make note of Sowerby's tenuous link to Wythe. Despite the uncertainty of Wythe ownership, the Wolf Law Library purchased a copy of the 1673 edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in quarter calf with marbled boards. Includes the bookplate of the Los Angeles County Law Library on the front pastedown.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. Michael de L. Landon, "Brydall, John (b. c.1635, d. in or after 1705?)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed December 6, 2013.
  2. John Richard Magrath, The Queen's College, vol. 2, 1646-1877 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), 54.
  3. de L. Landon, "Brydall, John (b. c.1635, d. in or after 1705?)."
  4. Magrath, The Queen's College, 54.
  5. de L. Landon, "Brydall, John (b. c.1635, d. in or after 1705?)"; Magrath, The Queen's College, 54.
  6. John Brydall, Jus Sigilli, or, the Law of England Touching His Majesties Four Principal Seales Viz., the Great Seale, the Privie Seale, the Exchequer Seale, and the Signet (London: Printed by E. Flesher, for Thomas Dring and John Leigh, 1673).
  7. Ibid.
  8. House of Parliament website, s.v. Lord Privy Seal", accessed July 9, 2014.
  9. Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, s.v. "Privy seal," accessed July 9, 2014.
  10. Harold M. Mernick, Great Seals of Britain, s.v. "The Great Seal of The Exchequer," accessed July 9, 2014.
  11. T. F. Tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval England: The Wardrobe, the Chamber, and the Small Seals (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967), 1:144.
  12. Brydall, Jus Sigilli.
  13. Ibid.
  14. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 2:196 [no.1727].
  15. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, 2009, rev. May, 2014) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433.