Henrici de Bracton De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae Libri Quinque

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by Henry de Bracton

Henry of Bratton was long thought to have been the author of the legal treatise known as Bracton. As may be deduced from its more formal alternative title De legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, it is the most ambitious English legal work of the middle ages, apparently conceived on a grand scale as an overall survey and discussion of the whole of the common law as it was being applied in the king's courts in England, with supporting citations of actual decided cases, and the reproduction of writ and enrolment formulas currently in use. The extant treatise is evidently only part of the work as originally envisaged, but even so the work is around ten times the length of the only previous English legal treatise, Glanvill. The main topics covered are the acquisition and transmission of property rights, criminal law, and the working of the different kinds of real action for the recovery or assertion of rights over land and other forms of real property. Most manuscripts divide up the work into four or five books, but this division is an artificial one and the basic unit of composition appears to be the ‘title’. Each ‘title’ is in turn composed of a number of independent paragraphs. Bracton is clearly the work of an author with a knowledge of Roman and canon law as well as English common law, though there has been a long debate among legal historians about how expert the author really was in the ‘learned law’. It is clear that the author did make use of Roman law to fill gaps in his English materials. He also drew on Roman law for some of the more abstract organizing principles of the treatise. Despite the size of the book it survives in about fifty different manuscripts, most of them written during the last two decades of the thirteenth century or the first half of the fourteenth century.[1]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Henry de Bracton, (d. 1268)

Title: Henrici de Bracton De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae Libri Quinque: in Varios Tractatus Distincti, ad Diversorum & Vetustissimorum Codicum Collationem, Ingenti Cura Denuò Typis Vulgati

Published: Londini: typis Milonis Flesher & Roberti Young, assign: Johannis More, armig., 1640.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

External Links

Google Books


  1. Paul Brand, ‘Bratton , Henry of (d. 1268)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 6 June 2013