The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England: Containing the Exposition of Many Ancient and Other Statutes

From Wythepedia: The George Wythe Encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

by Sir Edward Coke

The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England

Title page from The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Sir Edward Coke
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed by W. Rawlins, for Thomas Basset
Date 1681
Edition Sixth
Language English with some Latin and Law French
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [12], 744, [40]
Desc. Folio (31 cm.)
Location Shelf K-5
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Born on February 1, 1552 at Mileham, Norfolk, Sir Edward Coke (1552 – 1634) was arguably the most prominent lawyer, legal writer, and politician during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, and a defender of the common law over the use of the Stuarts' royal prerogative.[1]


Coke began his studies in 1567 at Trinity College during the years of the Vestiarian controversy — puritan protests against the Church of England. In 1572 he moved on to study at the Inner Temple, where he was admitted to the bar on April 20, 1578. Coke quickly rose to prominence through his successful execution of several noteworthy cases, such as Shelley’s case. Coke's analytical efforts helped to refine the legal doctrines of English law, and his reputation won him a seat in Parliament. He would later become the Speaker of the House of Commons and eventually attorney general.[2] In 1606, after being created serjeant-at-law, Coke was appointed chief justice of the [[wikipedia:Court of Common Pleas (England)|Court of Common Pleas]. He was transferred, against his will, to chief justice of the Court of King's Bench in 1613. He also became a member of the privy council.[3]

After several political and judicial skirmishes with James VI and I James I and Francis Bacon, Coke was suspended from the privy council and removed from the bench in 1616.[4] Although he never returned to the bench, Coke did return to Parliament and was elected to that body four times from 1620 to 1629. During this time he took a lead in creating and composing the Petition of Right. "This document cited the Magna Carta and reminded Charles I that the law gave Englishmen their rights, not the king ... Coke's petition focused on ... due process, protection from unjust seizure of property or imprisonment, the right to trial by jury of fellow Englishmen, and protection from unjust punishments or excessive fines."[5] After this triumph, Coke spent his remaining years at his home, Stoke Poges, working on The Institutes of the Laws of England, another endeavor for which he is rightly famous.[6]

The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England includes mainly public law and statutory changes to the common law as previously described in Coke's First Institute.[7] "As usual the commentaries are both discursive and learned."[8] Coke's explantion of the more modern statutes give valuable historical insight into the reasons for passage and the immediate effects of their implementation.[9]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed with the other parts of Coke's Institutes in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Coke's Institutes. 3.v. fol." This was one of the sets kept by Thomas Jefferson. He may have sold the volumes to the Library of Congress in 1815. Jefferson did sell two editions of The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England to the Library, copies of the fourth edition (1662) and sixth edition (1681)[10] Both volumes still exist, but neither includes any Wythe-related markings or signatures. Mary Goodwin lists both volumes in her pamphlet on the George Wythe House.[11] George Wythe's Library[12] suggests the 1662 second edition, noting "contains manuscript notes note by Jefferson." The Brown Bibliography[13] includes the 1681 sixth edition instead. Dean's Memo[14] lists the first (1642) edition of The Second Part citing Nathan Schachner's biography of Jefferson.[15] The Wolf Law Library moved a copy of the sixth edition from an existing rare book collection to the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary calf with blind rules and tooling to boards. Spine features red morocco label with gilt lettering and decorative border. Purchased through the generosity of Daniel W. Baran and Lena Stratton Baran, Class of 1936.

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. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. "Sir Edward Coke," accessed October 3, 2013.
  2. Allen D. Boyer, "Coke, Sir Edward (1552–1634)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed September 18, 2013.
  3. Boyer, "Coke, Sir Edward."
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s.v. "Sir Edward Coke."
  5. Bill of Rights Institute website, s.v. "Petition of Right (1628)," accessed October 3, 2013.
  6. Boyer, "Coke, Sir Edward."
  7. W. S. Holdsworth, A History of English Law (London: Methuen & Co., Sweet and Maxwell, 1924), 5:468.
  8. Ibid., 469.
  9. Ibid.
  10. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 2:218 [no. 1782-1783].
  11. Mary R. M. Goodwin, The George Wythe House: Its Furniture and Furnishings (Williamsburg, Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library, 1958), XLVI.
  12. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on March 27, 2015.
  13. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012, rev. 2014) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  14. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 10 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  15. Nathan Schachner, Thomas Jefferson (New York: T. Yoseloff, 1957), 36.