Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals of Virginia

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by Bushrod Washington

Washington's Reports

Title page from Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Bushrod Washington
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Richmond: Printed by Thomas Nicolson
Date 1798-1799
Edition First
Language English
Volumes 2 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (20 cm.)
Location Shelf G-4
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Bushrod Washington (1762 – 1829), the nephew of George Washington, served on the United States Supreme Court from 1798 until his death in 1829.[1] After studying law under George Wythe at the College of William & Mary in 1780, Washington began a long career in politics and law.[2] In the 1790s he established a practice in Richmond, and regularly appeared before the Virginia Court of Appeals.[3] He also served as a reporter for the court, and his case notes eventually became the basis for his Reports of Cases Argued in the Virginia Court of Appeals.[4]

At the time that Washington published his Reports in 1798, the recording and collecting of written summaries of court cases in the States was still a fairly new practice.[5] Without published records of judicial opinions and the reasoning behind them, a common law could not exist.[6] Without reference to precedent in American courts, judges had to rely on English common law, the authority of which was questionable in the United States,[7] or their own transient memory.[8] Even recorded decisions were of little use unless they were collected in a reporter like Washington’s: a state’s records were often scattered, making any attempt to search through prior cases nearly impossible.[9]

Tail-piece, volume two.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Washington reports. 2.v. 8vo." and kept by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson later sold a copy of the first edition of Washington's Reports to the Library of Congress in 1815, but the volumes have been rebound and contain no evidence to conclusively verify Wythe's previous ownership.[10] Both the Brown Bibliography[11] and George Wythe's Library[12] on LibraryThing list the first edition (1798-1799) of this title and acknowledge that the Library of Congress may own Wythe's copy. Brown also notes that Jefferson owned a second copy that was sold after his death. The Wolf Law Library moved a copy of the first edition of Washington's Reports from another rare books collection to the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Rebound in period style with raised bands and black labels to spine. Includes a previous owner's signature on each title page. Presented by Robert Friend Boyd.

View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, s.v. "Bushrod Washington," accessed October 11, 2013,
  2. Timothy L. Hall, “Washington, Bushrod” in Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2001), U.S. Government Online, Facts On File, Inc., accessed October 11, 2013,
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. William Winslow Crosskey, Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 599-605.
  6. Ibid., 600.
  7. Ibid., 601.
  8. Ibid., 600.
  9. Ibid., 605.
  10. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 2:353 [no.2090].
  11. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  12. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe" accessed on March 4, 2014.

External Links