The History of the Pleas of the Crown
by Sir Matthew Hale
The Historia placitorum coronae was printed in an edition by Sollom Emlyn in 1736 and was the main authority on English criminal law for a century thereafter (it is occasionally confused with a much sketchier notebook on the subject, published in 1678 as Pleas of the Crown, or, A Methodical Summary of the Principal Matters Relating to that Subject). Stephen believed that the work displayed ‘a depth of thought and comprehensiveness of design which puts it in quite a different category from Coke's Institutes’ (J. F. Stephen, A History of the Criminal Law of England, 1883, 2.211). According to Gilbert Burnet, Hale started it before the regicide, suspending work during the interregnum; he was certainly still adding new material in the months of illness following his retirement. Like the Historia, the History is a history in the seventeenth-century sense—a comprehensive treatment of its topic, though much of its length is taken up with the story of the law's development. It is notable for a Burkean account of the wisdom of a customary law, and for a temperate defence of the system's continuity across the Norman conquest. The Analysis at its conclusion is a complete taxonomy of matters handled by the common law; it was borrowed by William Blackstone with minimal modification and therefore provides the structure of Blackstone's Commentaries. 
Author: Sir Matthew Hale.
Title: Historia Placitorum Coronæ: The History of the Pleas of the Crown.
Published: [London], In the Savoy: Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling for F. Gyles, 1736.
Edition: First edition; two volumes.
Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library
Wythe definitely owned this title—a copy at the University of Virginia includes his bookplate and an inscription on the inside front board, "Given by Thos. Jefferson to D. Carr, 1806." Not surprisingly, it is also listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Hale's P.C. 2.v. fol., given by Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr. Three of the Wythe Collection sources (Dean's Memo, Brown's Bibliography and George Wythe's Library on LibraryThing) list The History of the Pleas of the Crown.
Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy
Has owner's label on spine, "Robt. Yancey"; illegible autograph dated 1832 on front cover and repeated on title page.
View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.
- Alan Cromartie, "Hale, Sir Mathew (1609–1676)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 7 June 2013]
- Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 7 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
- 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
- LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on June 28, 2013, http://www.librarything.com/profile/GeorgeWythe