A Treatise of Laws or, A General Introduction to the Common, Civil, and Canon Law

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by Giles Jacob

A Treatise of Laws

Title page from A Treatise of Laws, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Giles Jacob
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published [London]: Printed for T. Woodward, at the Half Moon against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet-Street and J. Peele, at Locke's-Head, in Pater-Noster-Row
Date 1721
Edition First
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [2], vi, [6], 533, [15]
Desc. 8vo
Location Shelf F-1
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Giles Jacob (1686-1744) was a British legal writer and literary critic. A prominent compiler of law in the early eighteenth century, Jacob published several influential texts on local courts and officers; conveyances; constitutional, military, commercial and criminal law; and political and poetical work.[1] Jacob was heavily influenced by philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, both of whom believed that "a general agreement on the definition of words was necessary" to eliminate confusion about the meaning of law and the legal rights of people.[2]

Jacob did not intend A Treatise of Laws: or, A General Introduction to the Common, Civil, and Canon Law to be an all encompassing tome of legal doctrine, but rather a condensed and abridged treatise accessible to individuals not intimately familiar with law. "By [a]briding and [m]ethodizing, the Study of Law may be brought into a much narrower compass than is commonly suppos'd," he wrote.[3] The book is broken into three sections based on the main topics of discussion: Common Law, Civil Law, and Canon Law. Each section begins with explanation on the general type of law, and then proceeds to cover all of the individual legal issues. Each issue describes the doctrine of the particular law, and in some cases, the reasoning behind those doctrines. [4]

Bookplate, front pastedown.

Jacob dedicated this treatise to the Honourable Sir John Pratt, a prominent legal and judicial figure whose career included membership in the House of Commons as well as receiving a Knighthood.[5]

A precursor to Jacob's better known works, including A New Law-Dictionary, A Treatise of Laws was still thought of as an important treatise that could be found in the collections of prominent legal practitioners and scholars such as Charles Purton Cooper.[6] Jacob's work continues to have relevance and has been cited in recent legal scholarly books.[7]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Jacob’s introdn to the Common, civil & canon laws. 8vo. and given by Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr. Both George Wythe's Library[8] on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography[9] list A Treatise of Laws or, A General Introduction to the Common, Civil, and Canon Law published in London in 1721. The Wolf Law Library purchased a copy of that edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary full calf. Boards feature blind rules and ornate motif adjacent to spine. Edges are tooled and gilt. Includes the nineteenth-century armorial bookplate of the Earls of Macclesfield, Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire, England on the front pastedown. The Macclesfield crest is also embossed on the title page and two following leaves.

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. Julia Rudolph, “That ‘Blunderbuss’ of Law: Giles Jacob, Abridgment, and Print Culture,” Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture 37 (2008): 197-215. Abstract accessed October 10, 2013, on Project Muse.
  2. Law Dictionary Collection, s.v. "Giles Jacob: 1686-1744," The University of Texas School of Law, accessed October 10, 2013.
  3. Giles Jacob, A Treatise of Laws: Or, A General Introduction to the Common, Civil, and Canon Law (London: Printed by Eliz. Nutt and R. Goffing for T. Woodward, 1721), x.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Stuart Handley, "Pratt, Sir John (1657–1725)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed January 19, 2013.
  6. Charles Purton Cooper, Bibliotheca Cooperiana: Catalogue of a Further Portion of the Library of Charles Purton Cooper (London: J. Davy and Sons, 1856).
  7. Philip Hamburger, Law and Judicial Duty (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 116.
  8. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on April 21, 2013.
  9. 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: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433

External Links

Read this book in Google Books