History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery

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The History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery in Which is Introduced, an Account of the Institution and Various Regulations of the Said Court; Shewing Likewise, the Ancient and Present Practice Thereof in an Easy and Familiar Method

by Sir Geoffrey Gilbert

The History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery
George Wythe bookplate.jpg
Title not held by The Wolf Law Library
at the College of William & Mary.
Author Sir Geoffery Gilbert
Published London: Lintot
Date 1758
Volumes volume set

London, In the Savoy: Printed by H. Lintot, for J. Worall and W. Owen, 1758.

History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery is the title of a legal treatise written by Geoffrey Gilbert and first published in 1756. It is divided into two major sections, Forum Romanum and Lew Praetoria. [1] Forum Romanum deals with rules of procedure in courts of equity, while Lex Praetoria focuses on the subject matter of equity. [2] History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery was a hugely influential book over one hundred years after its publication. An American reviewer writing about it in the late nineteenth century stated, "…all other works on equity, which have subsequently appeared may be, in some sense, considered modifications of Lord Gilbert’s treatise." [3]

Forum Romanum covers a great variety of topics. It was considered the "most significant and respected work" of its time to cover changes in procedural doctrine, such as rules relating to necessary parties. [4] It also contains one of the earliest explanations of rules regarding child advocacy in courts of chancery. [5] Evidence theory is also covered extensively, with Gilbert incorporating many characteristics of the continental approach to proof. [6]

Lex Praetoria is considered to be a less complete work than Forum Romanum, though it is likely that neither were intended to be released to the public in the unfinished state Gilbert left them in. [7] Lex Praetoria has been described a giving a "limited but imperfect view of the doctrines of the Courts of Chancery, even so far as they had been established in this time." [8]. It contains only a few of the general principles of chancery of the time, and several case illustrations to go with them. [9]

In addition to serving as a substantial and influential work, History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery serves as a sort of historical marker. It, along with several other comprehensive treatises of its time, can be seen as a reflection of "the transformation of English legal science in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries." [10]

Sir Geoffrey Gilbert, the author of History and Practice of the High Court of Chancery, was born in 1764 near Lamberhurst, Kent. [11] His father, William, was buried in November of the same year. [12] Little aside from that is known about William or Geoffrey’s mother Elizabeth.[13] After his legal education at the Inner Temple he practiced for several years before being appointed a puisne judge of the Irish king’s bench in 1715. [14] Gilbert would eventually go on to render an important decision in the case Annesley v. Sherlock by ruling that appeals from equity jurisdictions in Ireland belonged to the British (and not Irish) House of Lords. [15] His career picked up significantly after this, and he would eventually go on to be knighted in 1725 and was elected to the Royal Society in 1726. He died after a long illness on October 14, 1726. [16]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library


  1. Albany Law Journal 10, (November 14, 1874): 308-20.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr., "Indispensable Party: The Historical Origin of a Procedural Phantom," Columbia Law Review 61, no. 7 (November 1961): 1269.
  5. "The Guardian Ad Litem - Bis Origin," Western Reserve Law Journal 4, no. 7 (December 1898): 178-84.
  6. Stephan Landsman, "From Gilbert to Bentham: The Reconceptualization of Evidence Theory," Wayne Law Review 36, no. 3 (Spring 1990): 1149-86.
  7. Joseph Story, "Story's Commentaries on Equity Jurisprudence," American Jurist and Law Magazine 15, no. 30 (July 1836): 363-70.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Harold J. Berman and Charles J. Reid, Jr., "The Transformation of English Legal Science: From Hale to Blackstone," Emory Law Journal 45, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 437-522.
  11. M. Macnair, "Gilbert, Sir Jeffray (1674–1726)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed February, 25 2015.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.

External Links

See bookplate in Google Books