A Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills: Compiled out of the Laws Ecclesiastical, Civil, and Canon, as also out of the Common Law, Customs and Statutes of This Realm

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by Henry Swinburne

A Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills

Title page from A Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Henry Swinburne
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: In the Savoy: Printed by Henry Lintot (assignee of Edw. Sayer, esq.) and sold by S. Birt
Date 1743
Edition Sixth, corrected and very much enlarged
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [16], 567, [12]
Desc. Folio (34 cm.)
Location Shelf L-5
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Henry Swinburne (1521 – 1624) was an ecclesiastical lawyer in England, known for his two great publications, A Briefe Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills and A Treatise of Spousals, or Matrimonial Contracts. Hoping to reach a broader audience, he was the first ecclesiastical lawyer to write his works in English.[1] A Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills was used as the standard text on family law for 200 years.[2] Swinburne believed that there were too many disjointed books on the subject, making it very difficult to study. With his volume he hoped to replace hundreds of titles and allow for more clarity and deeper study.[3]

Chart "Shewing by what Means Testaments and Last Wills Become Void."

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Swinburne on wills. fol. and given by Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr. The precise edition owned by Wythe is unknown. Folio editions were published in 1728 and 1743.[4] George Wythe's Library[5] on LibraryThing indicates as much without choosing an edition. The Brown Bibliography[6] lists the 1728 edition in part based on the existence of that edition in Jefferson's library.[7] The Wolf Law Library moved a copy of the 1743 edition from the general rare books collection to the George Wythe Collection.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Rebound in period style full red calf with black spine label and marbled endpapers. Title page signed by former owners "C.P. Sherman 1881", "J. R. Tyson" and "Greaves."

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. Sheila Doyle, "Swinburne, Henry (c.1551–1624)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed October 13, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. J. H. Baker, "Famous English Canon Lawyers: V," Ecclesiastical Law Journal 3, no. 12 (1993): 5-9.
  4. English Short Title Catalog, http://estc.bl.uk, search of "Swinburne" and "Wills" reveals only two folio editions.
  5. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on April 21, 2013.
  6. 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
  7. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 2:381 [no.2148].