The New Natura Brevium

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by Anthony Fitzherbert

The New Natura Brevium

Title page from The New Natura Brevium, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Sir Anthony Fitzherbert
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London (In the Savoy): Printed for Henry Lintot and sold by J. Shuckburgh
Date 1755
Edition Eighth, carefully revised
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [12], 606, [42]
Desc. 4to (27 cm.)
Location Shelf F-2
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

The New Natura Brevium was a highly influential treatise on English law first issued in French in 1534 and written by Sir Anthony Fitzherbert (1470-1538), an English judge, scholar, and "one of the best-known English legal writers of the sixteenth century."[1] Frequently cited in judgments for more than two hundred years following its publication,[2] The New Natura Brevium is an important text on 16th century common law.

Fitzherbert had already published Magnum Abbreviamentum, an abridgment of the year books,[3] "a massive digest of 13,845 cases ... arranged under alphabetical headings."[4] In 1522, he was made a judge of common pleas and was knighted, although he continued to write and soon after published three works: one on law, one on agriculture, and one of law and agriculture combined.[5]

It is for The New Natura Brevium that Fitzherbert is most well-known. In it he touches on an array of legal issues ranging from the skill and care one is owed by an expert, to the cause of action for a victim of fraud, and the scope of liability for trespasses on land.[6] His analysis was crucial to the development of English common law,[7] and consequently the foundation of the United States’ legal system.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Both Dean's Memo[8] and the Brown Bibliography[9] suggest Wythe owned the 8th edition (1755) of this title based on notes in John Marshall's commonplace book.[10] The Wolf Law Library followed their suggestions and purchased the 8th edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Rebound in brown buckram; pencil annotations on flyleaf.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. J. H. Baker, "Fitzherbert, Sir Anthony (c.1470–1538)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, accessed 18 Sept 2013.
  2. William Douthwaite, Gray’s Inn (London: Reeves and Turner, 1886), 46.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. "Fitzherbert, Sir Anthony."
  4. Baker, "Fitzherbert, Sir Anthony."
  5. Ibid.
  6. Douthwaite, Gray’s Inn.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 11 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  9. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  10. The Papers of John Marshall, eds. Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, and Nancy G. Harris (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, in association with the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1974), 1:46.