Wythe's Library

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George Wythe supported his voracious reading habits with an extensive personal library[1] but, if he made any record of its contents, that has not been found. When Wythe died in 1806, he bequeathed all his books to his favorite protégé, Thomas Jefferson.[2] For 200 years, very little was known about Wythe's library other than its existence within Jefferson's massive collection.

Colonial Williamsburg attempted to identify specific titles as early as 1958 when Mary R.M. Goodwin, a senior researcher at the Rockefeller Library, wrote The George Wythe House: Its Furniture and Furnishings. Goodwin listed 54 titles and divided them into three categories: law books, journals, and miscellaneous. Within these categories, Goodwin identified several of the known surviving Wythe volumes. Goodwin's research laid the foundation for another Colonial Williamsburg attempt at reconstructing Wythe's library. In an internal memo[3], Barbara C. Dean expanded Goodwin's list to 189 titles by utilizing the published papers of Wythe's students and adding titles illustrative of the time.

Until 2008, the Goodwin and Dean bibliographies represented the extent of known information regarding Wythe's library. That changed with the discovery by Endrina Tay, a librarian at Monticello's Jefferson Library, and Jeremy Dibbell of the Massachusetts Historical Society, of a manuscript list in the hand of Thomas Jefferson which appeared to document dispersal decisions Jefferson made regarding Wythe's books.[4] Jefferson's inventory identifies 338 titles (649 volumes) with brief notations. In some cases, specific titles and editions can be derived from Jefferson's entries. In other instances, mystery remains.[5]

Tay and Dibbell's discovery led to the creation of two further bibliographies: George Wythe on LibraryThing which combines titles from the Jefferson inventory with other known items, and "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond", an unpublished compilation by Bennie Brown from the Bookpress Ltd. in Williamsburg.[6] Brown conducted extensive research, visiting each of the libraries with known or suspected Wythe volumes. He also combed primary sources, including the published legal records of Wythe's decisions and his arguments for the plaintiff in Bolling v. Bolling. The most recent version of Brown's bibliography includes 478 titles and provides much of the substantiating evidence for the Wolf Law Library's George Wythe Collection.



Case Reports, Digests, and Statutes



  • Bacon, Matthew. A New Abridgment of the Law. 3rd ed. corrected. London: Printed by His Majesty's Law-Printers for J. Worrall and Co. ..., 1768. Held by W&M Law Library.

Court of Chancery

Court of Common Pleas

  • Barnes, Henry. Notes of Cases in Points of Practice: Taken in the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster from Michaelmas Term, the Sixth Year of King George II. 1732. to Hillary Term, the Thirteenth Year of king George II. 1740. London, In the Savoy: 1740.

Court of Exchequer

Court of King's Bench

Multiple Courts

  • Ventris, Peyton, Sir. The Reports of Sir Peyton Ventris. 4th impression, carefully corrected. London, In the Savoy: Printed by E. and R. Nutt and R. Gosling for D. Browne ..., 1726. Held by W&M Law Library.

House of Lords

United States



Dictionaries and Encyclopedias



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Economics and Finance

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Geography and Travel

  • Chastellux, François Jean, marquis de. Travels in North-America, in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782. Translated from the French by an English gentleman, who resided in America at that period. With notes by the translator. London: Printed for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787. Held by W&M Law Library.
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  • Caesar, Julius. C. Julii Caesaris Quae Exstant. Edition tertia. Londini: E [sic] typographaeo Mariae Matthews : Impensis J. & B. Sprint, B. Tooke, D. Midwinter, A. Bettesworth, J. Bowyer, H. Clements, Gul. Taylor, T. Ward, Gul. & J. Innys, & Gul. Churchill, 1719. Held by W&M Law Library.
  • Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by Sir Roger L'Estrange. London: Printed for Richard Sare ..., 1702. Held by W&M Law Library.
  • Plutarch. Plutarch's Lives. Translated with notes historical and critical from M. Dacier. London: Printed for J. Tonson, 1727. Held by W&M Law Library.
  • Potter. John. Archæologia Græca: or, The Antiquities of Greece. 5th ed. London: Printed for J. Knapton, R. Knaplock, J. and B. Sprint, D. Midwinter, A. Bettesworth, R. Robinson, W. and J. Innys, J. Osborne, T. Longman, W. Mears, and A. Ward, 1728. Held by W&M Law Library.
  • Suetonius. C. Suetonii Tranquilli Opera Omnia Quae Extant. Londini: E typographaeo Mariae Matthews : Impensis R. Knaplock, J. & B. Sprint, B. Tooke, H. Clements, F. Gyles, R. Robinson, W. Churchil, & W. Meares, 1718. Held by W&M Law Library.




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Language and Rhetoric

  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius. M.T. Ciceronis Orationes Quaedam Selectae. Editio quarta, auctior & emendatior. Londini: Typis Gulielmi Sayes, impensis J. Knapton, R Wilkin, J. & B. Sprint, B. & S. Tooke, D. Midwinter, B. Cowse, G. Mortlock, W. & J. Innys, & A. Ward, 1722.
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Legal Treatises


  • Blackstone, William, 1723-1780. Law Tracts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1762.
  • Breton, John le. Britton. 2nd ed. London: Printed by the assignes of John Moore Esquire, 1640.
  • Kames, Henry Home, Lord. Historical Law-Tracts. 2nd ed. Edinburgh and London: Printed by A. Kincaid, His Majesty's Printer, for A. Millar, London, and A. Kincaid and J. Bell, in Edinburgh, 1761.

Administration of Criminal Justice

Civil Law

Civil Procedure

Commercial Law

  • Bacon, Matthew. The Compleat Arbitrator or, the Law of Awards and Arbitraments. London, octavo, precise edition unknown.


  • Ashe, Thomas. The Law of Obligations and Conditions, or, An Accurate Treatise, Wherein is Contained the Whole Learning of the Law Concerning Bills, Bonds, Conditions, Statutes, Recognizances, and Defeasances. London: Printed for J. Walthoe ..., 1693.


Criminal Law

  • Beccaria, Cesare. An Essay on Crimes and Punishments. Translated from the Italian, with a commentary, attributed to Mons. de Voltaire, translated from the French. London: Printed for J. Almon, 1767.
  • Fitzherbert, Anthony. The New Natura Brevium. 8th ed., carefully revised. London, in the Savoy : printed for Henry Lintot ... and sold by J. Shuckburgh, 1755.
  • Gilbert, Geoffrey. The Law of Evidence. 2nd ed., corrected. London, In the Savoy : Printed by Catherine Lintot ... for W. Owen, 1760.

Ecclesiastical Law

  • Burn, Richard. Ecclesiastical Law. 4th ed. London: Printed by W. Strahan and M. Woodfall, Law-Printers to the King's Most Excellent Majesty for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1781.


  • Ballow, Henry. A Treatise of Equity. London, in the Savoy: Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, (assigns of Edward Sayer) for D. Browne, at the Black Swan without Temple-Bar; and J. Shuckburgh, at the Sun next the Inner Temple gate in Fleetstreet, 1737.
  • Kames, Henry Home, Lord. Principles of Equity. Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid, His Majesty's printer. For A. Millar, London; and A. Kincaid and J. Bell, Edinburgh, 1760.

International Law


Roman Law

Virginia Law


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  • Butler, Samuel. Hudibras. London: Printed for John Baker, at the Black-Boy in Pater-noster-Row, 1710.
  • Sterne, Laurence. The Works of Laurence Sterne. London : Printed for W. Strahan, J. Rivington and Sons, J. Dodsley, G. Kearsley, T. Lowndes, G. Robinson ... 1780.
  • Town, Mr., pseud. The Connoisseur. 3rd ed. London: Printed for R. Baldwin, 1757.



  • Anacreon. Odes of Anacreon. Translated by Thomas Moore. Philadelphia: Printed and published by Hugh Maxwell, opposite Christ-church. 1804.
  • Homer. Tēs tou Homērou Iliados. Edited by J. Moor and G. Muirhead. Glasguae: In aedibus Academicis, Excudebant R. et A. Foulis, 1756.
  • Homer. Tēs tou Homērou Odysseias. Edited by J. Moor and G. Muirhead. Glasguae: In aedibus Academicis, Excudebant R. et A. Foulis, 1758.
  • Theocritus. The Idylliums of Theocritus. Translated by Francis Fawkes. London: Printed for the author by D. Leach and sold by J. and R. Tonson ..., 1767.


  • Juvenal and Persius. D. Junii Juvenalis et A. Persii Flacci Satyrae. Interpretatione ac notis illustravit Ludovicus Prateus. Londini: impensis Tho. Dring, contra Hospitium Templariorum in vico Fleetstreet dicto, & Abel Swalle, ad insigne Monocerotis in Ludgatestreet, 1691.


  • Macpherson, James. The Poems of Ossian. A new ed. London: Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1784-85.


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Mathematics and Engineering

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  • Plutarch. Plutarch's Morals. 3rd ed. corr. and amended. London: Printed by Tho. Braddyll, and are to be sold by most Booksellers in London and Westminister, 1694.
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  • Grotius, Hugo. De Veritate Religionis Christianae. Editio novissima, in qua ejusdem annotationes ipsius textus verbis subjectae sunt. Amstelaedami: Apud Henricum Wetstenium, 1696.
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Science and Medicine

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See also


  1. Douglas L. Miller, "Jefferson's Library," in Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography (New York: Scribner, 1986), pp. 157-179.
  2. See the letters between Jefferson and Wythe's executor, William Duval, for a discussion of Wythe's bequest.
  3. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, to Mrs. Stiverson (June 16, 1975).
  4. Endrina Tay & Jeremy Dibbell, "Reconstructing a Lost Library: George Wythe's 'Legacie' to President Thomas Jefferson," Tales from the Vault, Common-Place, Jan. 2009.
  5. "Inventory of the Books Received by Thomas Jefferson from the Estate of George Wythe, Circa September, 1806," Massachusetts Historical Society. For a transcribed version, see "Library of George Wythe," Thomas Jefferson Libraries.
  6. 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.

External links