An Epitome of All the Common & Statute Laws of This Nation Now in Force

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by William Sheppard

An Epitome of All the Common & Statute Laws of This Nation Now in Force

Title page from An Epitome of All the Common & Statute Laws of This Nation Now in Force, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author William Sheppard
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed for W. Lee, D. Pakemann, F. Wright, H. Twyford, G. Bedell, Tho. Brewster, Ed. Dod, and F. Place
Date 1656
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Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages 12 p.l., 1131
Desc. 29 cm.
Location [[Shelf {{{shelf}}}]]
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

William Sheppard (1595-1674) was a highly influential legal and religious reformer in England during the early and middle part of the 17th century.[1] After being called to the bar in 1629, Sheppard began his legal career and became a very well-known lawyer in the rural part of England from 1631 until 1654. During this time period, Sheppard served as steward for several manors and was an attorney of Gloucester’s local court. In addition to his practical work in the field of law, Sheppard published several legal texts. Many of these were based upon Sheppard’s own observations of the cases involved in his local practice. He also wrote several religious texts on a variety of topics.[2]

In 1653 Sheppard was called to London by Oliver Cromwell to assist him in the creation of a law reform program.[3] Some experts believe Sheppard’s religious publications, in addition to his legal works, were the ultimate reason for his selection by Cromwell.[4] Sheppard served in the administration for approximately three years during which time he published nine texts in support of the administration’s agenda.[5] Some of Sheppard’s best known works during this period included Precedent of Precedents, which contained standardized forms to register land, and An Epitome of All the Common and Statute Laws of the Nation now in Force, which was one of the earliest attempts at an abridged legal encyclopedia.[6]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

The Dean's Memo[7] includes the 1656 edition of Sheppard's Epitome based on Alan Smith's assertion that Jefferson cites the work in his commonplace book.[8] The Wolf Law Library followed Dean's recommendation and purchased the same edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary calf with blind rules to boards. Rebacked in period style with raised bands and lettering pieces and renewed endleaves. Contains woodcut decorated initials. Purchased from The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.

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


  1. Nancy L. Matthews, "Sheppard, William (bap. 1595, d. 1674)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed October 10, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Nancy L. Matthews, William Sheppard, Cromwell's Law Reformer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 31.
  4. Matthews, “Sheppard, William."
  5. Ibid.
  6. "Tarlton Law Library - Law Dictionary Collection - online exhibit," Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas at Austin, accessed October 10, 2013,
  7. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 16 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  8. Alan McKinley Smith "Virginia Lawyers, 1680-1776: The Birth of an American Profession" (PhD diss., The Johns Hopkins University, 1967), 263.