Narrationes Modernae

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by William Style

William Style, law reporter and legal writer, was the first son of William Style of Beckenham (d. 1615), who was the grandson of Sir Humphrey Style, esquire of the body to Henry VIII, and his second wife, Mary, daughter of Sir Robert Clarke, baron of the exchequer. He matriculated at Oxford in 1618, resided briefly in Brasenose College, was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1619, and was called to the bar in 1628. Although he was still living in chambers in Paper Buildings in the 1650s, he played little part in the formal life of the society and never became a bencher. This is rather surprising, given his interest in legal learning and the dedication of his Modern Reports ‘more particularly and affetionately’ to the members of his inn, where he had lived ‘for so many years together … amidst so many learned men’. He does not seem to have been a prominent practitioner, and referred in the same place to his constant attendance for many years at the bar, ‘with very litle profit either to others or my self’ (Style, Modern Reports, dedication); indeed, he said he had earned little more than a ‘little quelque chose … pur fair bouillir la marmite’ (Style, Practical Register, preface)... Style's other original publication was Narrationes modernae, or, Modern Reports (1658), a collection of law reports in the king's bench and upper bench from 1648 to 1655, translated (with evident distaste) from law French into English, as required by legislation of 1650 (which Style castigated). The reports are unusual in that they were prepared for the press by the author, and they remain the principal source of case law from the time of Chief Justice Rolle, whom Style greatly admired, and his successor Glynne. Style lamented in his preface that ‘the Press hath been very fertile in this our Age, and hath brought forth many, if not too many births of this nature. … This I am sure of, there is not a father alive to own many of them’. His own reports, however, were ‘a lawfull Issue’, and he claimed to have been as careful in penning his collection ‘as was possible at a throngued Bar to do’. Conscious, it seems, of his failure at the bar, he hoped they would prove he had not neglected his calling or ‘lived altogether a drone’. Style also published in 1640 an English translation, entitled Contemplations, Signs and Groans of a Christian, of a work by John Michael Dilherr. [1]

Bibliographic Information

Author: William Style, (c.1599-1679)

Title: Narrationes Modernae, or, Modern Reports Begun in the Now Upper Bench Court at Westminster: in the Beginning of Hillary Term 21 Caroli and Continued to the End of Michaelmas Term 1655

Publication Info: London: Printed by F. L. for W. Lee, D. Pakeman, G. Bedel, and C. Adams, 1658.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Rebound ca. 1980. Contains autographs of "Leeson" and "Nicholas Burnell esqr. 1690."


  1. J. H. Baker, ‘Style, William (c.1599–1679)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 30 May 2013