Les Reports des Divers Select Matters & Resolutions des Reverend Judges & Sages del Ley, Touchant & Concernant Mults Principal Points Occurrent Estre Debate per Eux: En le Several Reignes de les Treshault & Excellent Princes, le Roys Hen. 8 & Edw. 6. & le Roignes Mar. & Eliz

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by Sir James Dyer

Dyer's Reports

Title page from Les Reports des Divers Select Matters & Resolutions des Reverend Judges & Sages del Ley, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Sir James Dyer
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed by W. Rawlins, S. Roycroft, and M. Flesher Assigns of Richard and Edward Atkins Esquires. For Samuel Keble ...
Date 1688
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language French
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [8], 62, 65-377, [27] leaves
Desc. Folio (40 cm.)
Location Shelf C-5
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Sir James Dyer (1510 – 1582) was a judge, law reporter, and speaker of the House of Commons in sixteenth century England. After receiving his legal education at Strands Inn, Dyer began his legal career as a clerk for John Jenour. It was during this clerkship that Dyer acquired a mastery of the forms of pleadings.[1] After his clerkship, Dyer eventually went on to become a judge in the Court of Common Pleas] from 1557-1582 and chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas from 1559 to 1582.[2]

During Dyer's legal career he originated the modern system of reporting law cases to serve as precedents.[3] His method of reporting superseded the traditional recording of cases in yearbooks. The traditional recording method, which began in 1292, did not intend for the cases to serve as guides for future decisions.[4] Dyer’s work comprised three volumes of cases from the common pleas court and covered the years 1513-1582. Some of the cases that appear in his early recordings occur only a few years after his birth, therefore it is clear that at least some of his reports are retrospective.[5]

Upon his death, Dyer left his legal records to his nephews.[6] His nephews were pressured by many legal scholars to allow his reports to be published and, despite the nephews’ hesitation to print Dyer's reports in their raw and unrefined condition, they did allow publication. Dyer's Reports became wildly influential and was produced in large print runs. Considered an essential possession for every law student,[7] the Dyer's work has been called "a fruitful collection" and "among the best of the old Reports."[8]

Inscription, front pastedown.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Both Dean's Memo[9] and the Brown Bibliography[10] suggest Wythe owned the sixth edition (1688) of this title based on notes in John Marshall's commonplace book.[11] The Wolf Law Library purchased a copy of the same edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Rebacked with contemporary leather boards. Inscribed "John M. Davenport, Oxford, anno 1838" on 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.

Full text

See also


  1. J. H. Baker, "Dyer, Sir James (1510–1582)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed September 18, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s.v. "Sir James Dyer," accessed November 14, 2013.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Baker, "Dyer, Sir James."
  7. Ibid.
  8. John William Wallace, The Reporters, Arranged and Characterized with Incidental Remarks, 4th ed. (Boston: Soule and Bugbee, 1882), 126.
  9. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 11 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  10. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433.
  11. Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, and Nancy G. Harris, eds., The Papers of John Marshall (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, in association with the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1974), 1:41.