The Reports of Sir Edward Coke

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by Sir Edward Coke

Coke's first well-known work was a manuscript report of Shelley's case, circulated soon after the decision in 1581. In 1600, afraid that unauthorized versions of his case reports might be printed—and probably following the example of Edmund Plowden, with whom he had worked and whom he revered—Coke issued the First Part of his Reports. He put out eleven volumes by 1615. Making available more than 467 cases, carrying the imprimatur and the authority of the lord chief justice, these case reports provided a critical mass of material for the rapidly developing modern common law. Reversing medieval jurisprudence, which had often relied on general learning and reason, Coke preferred to amass precedents. ‘The reporting of particular cases or examples’, he asserted, was ‘the most perspicuous course of teaching the right rule and reason of the law’ (E. Coke, Reports, 1600–1659, 4, preface). Coke began by printing great cases. With the Fourth Part and Fifth Part (1604–5) he shifted to shorter cases, grouped by topics. The Fifth Part featured Cawdrey's case, with Coke's treatise on the crown's ecclesiastical supremacy. Beginning with the Sixth Part (1607), Coke emphasized recent decisions. For his massive Book of Entries (1614) he collected pleadings for his fellow lawyers' better guidance. [1]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Coke, Edward, Sir, (1552-1634)

Title: The Reports of Sir Edward Coke, Kt. In English, in Thirteen Parts Compleat (with References to All the Ancient and Modern Books of the Law.)

Published: London, In the Savoy: Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, for R. Gosling ..., 1738.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of Wolf Law Library's copy

The George Wythe Collection includes a complete set of Coke's Reports purchased in 2010 and volume VI of George Wythe's personal copy. The latter is on permanent loan to the Wolf Law Library from the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.

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

George Wythe's Copy, Volume 6

Includes the bookplate of George Wythe. Previous owners include George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, Dabney Carr, and Tazewell Taylor.

Complete Set

Recent period-style quarter calf over cloth, raised bands and lettering piece to spine, endpapers renewed, a few title pages re-hinged.
  1. Allen D. Boyer, ‘Coke, Sir Edward (1552–1634)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 accessed 5 June 2013