Eight Centures of Reports

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by David Jenkins

Jenkins was yet again threatened with the scaffold when he was named in the spring of 1650 on a list of several prisoners that the Rump Parliament considered executing in retaliation for the assassination of Anthony Ascham in Spain, but in the end no action was taken. Though resolved to be ‘hanged with the Bible under one arme and Magna Charta under the other’ (Brief Lives, 2.6), Jenkins was reprieved when Henry Martin reminded the house that it would do more harm than good to their cause to make a martyr of him. Moved from Wallingford to Windsor Castle in 1652 he was finally discharged and allowed to go to Gray's Inn on 12 January 1657, and afterwards, though still under surveillance, lived for a while at Oxford. ‘Amidst the Sound of Drums and Trumpets, surrounded with an odious Multitude of Barbarians, broken with old Age and Confinement in Prisons, where my Fellow Subjects grown wild with Rage detained me for fifteen Years’, Jenkins used the period of his confinement to write Rerum judicatarum centurix octo, a compilation of judicial decisions made in exchequer chamber between 1275 and 1613. Jenkins said that he intended the work to be useful to all who studied the laws of England by rendering more certain the scattered decisions of former ages. His method was to give a short statement of each case and the decision, along with a marginal reference to the authority from which it was taken, only occasionally offering a commentary of his own. First published in French and Latin in 1661 the text was translated as Eight Centuries of Reports and was twice reprinted in the eighteenth century. Three other works (Pacis consultum; An Exact Method for Keeping a Court of Survey; and Some Difficult Questions in Law) published under his name in 1657 were disclaimed by Jenkins and are very unlikely to be authentic. [1]

Bibliographic Information

Author: David Jenkins

Title: Eight Centuries of Reports: or, Eight Hundred Cases Solemnly Adjudged in the Exchequer-Chamber, or, Upon Writs of Error.

Publication Info: London, In the Savoy: Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, (assigns of E. Sayer, Esq;) for John Worrall ... and Thomas Worrall, 1734.

Edition: Second

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Cited in John Marshall's law notes. Listed in the Brown Bibliography[2]

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Rebacked with original leather boards and original leather title label on spine outlined in gilt. Includes personal bookplate on inside front cover of William Paine Sheffield (1820-1907), a United States Representative and Senator from Rhode Island. Purchased from Evaleigh Books.


  1. Christopher W. Brooks, ‘Jenkins, David (1582–1663)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2007 accessed 29 May 2013
  2. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file.