The Law of Bills of Exchange, Promissory Notes, Bank-Notes, and Insurances

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by Timothy Cunningham

The Law of Bills of Exchange

Title page from The Law of Bills of Exchange, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Timothy Cunningham
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Dublin: Printed for Richard Watts
Date 1760
Edition Second
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages xxxvi, 451, [1]
Desc. 8vo (22 cm.)
Location Shelf F-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Timothy Cunningham (d. 1789), an Irish barrister of the Middle Temple, lived at Gray's Inn for over thirty years. He is known for writing numerous books, including The Laws of Bills of Exchange, Promissory Notes, Bank-Notes, and Insurances, A New Treatise on the Laws Concerning Tithes, and A New and Complete Law Dictionary.[1] Cunningham's dictionary was particularly interesting, as it was more like an encyclopedia or abridgement. It contained commentary of the law, with references to theory and practice.[2] Cunningham was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1761.[3] He died in 1789, bequeathing £1000 to the Royal Irish Academy, which then created the Cunningham medal.[4]

The Law of Bills of Exchange, Promissory Notes, Bank-Notes, and Insurances was first published in 1760; numerous editions followed. Cunningham has been described as a "trade expert," and his book was relied upon for insight into international trade and commerce long after its original publication.[5]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Thomas Jefferson listed "[Law of] Bills 8vo." in his inventory of Wythe's Library, noting that he gave the volume to his nephew, Dabney Carr. We do not have enough information to conclusively identify which edition Wythe owned. George Wythe's Library[6] on LibraryThing indicates this, adding "Octavo editions were published at London in 1760, 1761, 1766, and 1778; and Dublin in 1760 and 1766." The Brown Bibliography[7] lists the third (1766) London edition based on the copy Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress.[8] Because we do not know which edition Wythe owned, and because not all editions were available for purchase, the Wolf Law Library acquired a copy of the first Dublin (1760) edition.

Headpiece, first page of text.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in period-sytle half-calf with marbled boards. Spine features blind stamps, red label and gilt lettering. Title page signed "Boshell." Purchased from Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts.

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.

Full text

See also


  1. A. M. Clerke, "Cunningham, Timothy (d. 1789)," rev. J. A. Marchand, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed December 9, 2013.
  2. D.S. Bland, "Some Notes on the Evolution of the Legal Dictionary," The Journal of Legal History 1, no. 1 (1980): 79.
  3. Clerke, "Cunningham, Timothy."
  4. E.J. Went, "The Cunningham Medal of the Royal Irish Academy," Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, no. 73 (1973): 99-106.
  5. David Hancock, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 9.
  6. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe", accessed on October 6, 2014.
  7. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. May, 2014.) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  8. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 2:361 [no.2107].

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