The Touch-Stone Of Common Assurances

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by William Sheppard

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]

The Touchstone of Common Assurances, Sheppard's "most enduring and best-known work"[7] was published as a collection of twenty-three essays focused on conveyancing.[8] Sheppard had developed an expertise in the subject during the time he spent serving as an attorney for several manors early in his career. In the work, Sheppard opened "[e]ach chapter ... with a definition of one type of conveyance ... followed by a description of the rules, principles and leagl maxims that governed each conveyance."[9]

Bibliographic Information

Author: William Sheppard.

Title: The Touch-Stone of Common Assurances, or, A Plain and Familiar Treatise, Opening the Learning of the Common Assurances or Conveyances of the Kingdome.

Published: London: Printed by M.F. for W. Lee, M. Walbancke, D. Pakeman, and G. Bedell, 1648.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Find 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. Matthews, William Sheppard, Cromwell's Law Reformer, 77.
  8. Ibid."
  9. Matthews, William Sheppard, Cromwell's Law Reformer, 78.