Commentaries on the Laws of England

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by William Blackstone

The first volume of the Commentaries on the Laws of England appeared in 1765, with the remaining three following over the next four years. In some 2000 pages the common law's tortuous complexities were outlined in a manner at once authoritative, clear, elegant, and even engaging. While far from wholly laudatory or uncritical (of procedural complexities or excessively harsh criminal punishments, for example), the Commentaries depicted England's constitution and laws as reflecting the natural order of the cosmos, yet also rooted in the nation's distinctive historical development, like ‘an old Gothic castle, erected in the days of chivalry, but fitted up for a modern inhabitant’ (Blackstone, Commentaries, 3.268). Although mounting criticism tempered an initial highly favourable reception, Blackstone's Commentaries would become the most celebrated, widely circulated, and influential law book ever published in the English language. [1]

Bibliographic Information

Author: William Blackstone

Title: Commentaries on the Laws of England

Published: Oxford: Printed at the Clarendon Press, 1765-1769.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy


  1. Wilfrid Prest, ‘Blackstone, Sir William (1723–1780)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 accessed 6 June 2013