The Law of Covenants

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The Law of Covenants: a Treatise Explaining the Nature and Rules of the Several Sorts of Covenants

The Law of Covenants

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

Author The Author of The Law of Ejectments
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published [London] In the Savoy: Printed by John Nutt, for Samuel Butler
Date 1712
Edition Second
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [32], 512 (i.e. 496), [22]
Desc. 8vo. (20 cm.)
Location [[Shelf {{{shelf}}}]]
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

The author of this work is not specifically identified. In the early Eighteenth Century, a covenant was “defined to be the Agreement or Consent of Two or more by Deed whereby either of the said Parties doth Promise to the other, That something is done already, or shall be done hereafter.” [1]
In The Law of Covenants, the author attempts to define and distinguish the various forms of covenants as they exist in the common law, such as: the difference between express and implicit, personal and real, joint and several, and affirmative and negative covenants. [2]
Unlike modern contracts, breach of covenant did not necessarily relinquish the non-breaching party from their duties under the covenant. [3] Instead, damages could be claimed in suit against the breachor. [4] The Law of Covenants delves into the civil procedure for bringing action for damages in the case of breach of covenant, including identifying the proper parties against whom a suit should be brought, establishing the rules for joinder or severance, and assessing the damages owed to the plaintiff. [5]
The work is designed in such a way as to be used as a practice guide by lawyers. Each chapter addresses a specific legal issue regarding covenants. The author typically begins each chapter with a statement of the general law, usually citing a statute or judicial opinion which is directly on point. The author then cites applications of the law. This is usually accomplished by generally summarizing a case and its holding. The margins of the book are often filled with the author’s tips and notes on the text; either defining terms and cases or reminding the reader that a principle might not be applicable in certain circumstances. [6]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as [Law of] Covenants 8vo. and given by Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr. The Brown Bibliography[7] includes the second edition (1712) based on the copy Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress.[8] George Wythe's Library[9] on LibraryThing indicates "Precise edition unknown. The first edition was published in 1711; the second, with similar imprint, in 1712." The Wolf Law Library followed Brown's suggestion and purchased a copy of the 1712 edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary full calf. Includes signatures of previous owners, "John Macpherson, Jr. 1771" and "Charles Swift" on title page. Purchased from The Bookpress, Ltd.

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


  1. The Law of Covenants (London: J. Nutt, assignee of Edward Sayer Esq., 1713), 1.
  2. The Law of Covenants (London: J. Nutt, assignee of Edward Sayer Esq., 1713).
  3. Ibid., 1-2.
  4. Ibid., 2.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  8. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 2nd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), 2:309-310 [no.1983].
  9. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on September 16, 2013,