De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae Libri Quinque

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by Henry de Bracton

Much about Henry de Bracton (d.1268)—also known as Henry of Bracton and Henry Bratton[1]—remains shrouded in mystery, from his origins to even the circumstances of his most significant contribution to legal scholarship. It is speculated that he was born at Devon and then received his education in civil and canon law at Oxford.[2] After an indeterminate time in service as clerk to William of Raleigh, de Bracton was appointed to the bench of the circuit court at Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire,[3] then to the King’s Bench.[4] As a judge, de Bracton favored no political faction, and was noted for his ability to transcend such conflicts between “king and baron.”[5]

The treatise he left behind is known alternately as De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae, and, simply, Bracton,[6] and consists in part of hundreds of judicial opinions[7] accompanied by a summary of the common law of the day.[8] It primarily treated topics in property and the criminal law.[9] De Legibus was pioneering not only for its prodigious length, especially compared with the only other existing English treatise of the time[10] but for its foundation in the Roman law, even as it articulated something distinctly English.[11] Given the dates of some of the cases and the content of some of the commentary, it is highly unlikely that de Bracton is the sole author of this treatise, though his contribution is apparent in later additions to the work.[12] The enormous endeavor of De Legibus would remain relatively untouched until the advent of Blackstone’s Commentaries.[13]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Henry de Bracton

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

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

External Links

Google Books


  1. Charles Boothman, "Henry de Bracton", The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907), v.2, accessed October 16, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Paul Brand, "Bratton , Henry of (d. 1268)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed October 22, 2013).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Boothman, "Henry de Bracton."
  6. Brand, "Bratton , Henry of."
  7. Boothman, "Henry de Bracton."
  8. Brand, "Bratton , Henry of."
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Boothman, "Henry de Bracton."
  12. Brand, "Bratton , Henry of."
  13. "Bracton: De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae" in Bracton Online (Harvard Law School Library, 2003- ), accessed October 21, 2013.