Ecclesiastical Law

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by Richard Burn

Ecclesiastical Law

Title page from Ecclesiastical Law, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Richard Burn
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed by W. Strahan and M. Woodfall, Law-Printers to the King's Most Excellent Majesty for T. Cadell, in the Strand
Date 1781
Edition Fourth
Language English
Volumes 4 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (22 cm.)
Location [[Shelf {{{shelf}}}]]
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Richard Burn (1709–1785) attended Queen's College, Oxford, and became a justice of the peace for Westmoreland and Cumberland counties.[1] A clergyman of the Church of England, Burn was appointed Chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle in 1762, a post he held until his death twenty years later.[2] Burn wrote several authorities on legal topics, the most famous being Justice of the Peace, which became the standard in its field, passing through fifteen editions in Burn's lifetime.[3]

In Ecclesiastical Law, Burns attempted to categorize and explain elements of ecclesiastical law that had been previously muddy and undefined.[4] Of equal merit and nearly as popular as Burn's justice of the peace manual, this work separated the laws into clearly defined issues and offered the law as it applied to each issue, instead of merely listing all of the ecclesiastical laws of the time.[5] "In the preface the author gives a sketch of the history of the civil and canon law, and short accounts of the position of the ecclesiastical law in England after the Restoration, of the common and statute law, and of that part aof the jurisdiction of the court of Chancery which was exercised by it concurrently with the ecclesiastical courts."[6] The ninth and final edition of Ecclesiastical Law was published in 1842.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Bennie Brown included the fourth edition (1781) of Ecclesiastical Law in his bibliography[7] based on a notation in Thomas Jefferson's manuscript library catalog (1770-1812). Jefferson listed "Burn's Ecclesiastical law. 4.v. 8vo. 4th G. Wythe," the name of Wythe being inscribed in pencil. Whether the copy came from Wythe or was loaned to Wythe is unknown. The Wolf Law Library followed Brown's suggestion and purchased a copy of the fourth edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary calf with tooled edges and banded spines.

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


  1. Norma Landau, "Burn, Richard (1709–1785)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed June 7, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. William Holdsworth, A History of English Law (London: Methuen & Co., Sweet and Maxwell, 1938), 12:333.
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. "Burn, Richard" (University of Cambridge, 1911) , accessed October 2, 2013.
  5. Richard Burn, The Ecclesiastical Law (London: S. Sweet; R. Stevens; & G.S. Norton Law Booksellers and Publishers, 1842), .
  6. Holdsworth, A History of English Law, 612.
  7. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: