A Treatise of Equity

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by Henry Ballow

Henry Ballow was an English legal writer and deputy chamberlain of the exchequer who lived from 1704 to 1782.[1] A Treatise of Equity was the standard treatise on equity before Story's Commentaries on Equity Jurisprudence (1836). According to Holdsworth, it "can be taken as a good starting point for the history of the development of many of the principles and rules of modern equity."[2]
The work was published anonymously in 1737 ... appeared in 1793–4 with references and substantial notes by John Fonblanque, and reached its fifth edition in 1820. The treatise provided, in six short books, a systematic explanation of equity in terms of contract theory. The author regarded the specific enforcement of contracts as the core of equity, and his work represents for later generations the state of equity in the period between the times of the great lord chancellors Lord Nottingham and Lord Hardwicke. The treatise was founded upon the cases, the results of which it stated accurately, though the author cited very few authorities and gave no references to the cases, which rendered the book less valuable to the student than it might have been. Ballow's authorship, though generally accepted, is not certain. Fonblanque pointed out that if Ballow were the author he had produced the work while still of less than ten years' standing at the bar. Further doubt may arise from the apparent influence of Roman law training upon the book's method. However, Francis Hargrave's copy contains a note by Hargrave that the book was written by Mr Bellewe, and one of the manuscripts which passed to Lord Camden as Ballow's literary executor contained a large portion of the work, revised and corrected apparently for publication.[3]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Henry Ballow, (1704?-1782)

Title: A Treatise of Equity.

Publication Info: London, in the Savoy: Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, (assigns of Edward Sayer) for D. Browne, at the Black Swan without Temple-Bar; and J. Shuckburgh, at the Sun next the Inner Temple gate in Fleetstreet, 1737.

Edition: First edition.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Treatise on Equity, fol. and given by Thomas Jefferson to Dabney Carr. The first edition is the only folio edition of this work.[4] Both the Brown Bibliography[5] and George Wythe's Library[6] on LibraryThing include this edition of this title.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

The copy is bound in contemporary calf with blind rules to the boards and blind fillets along the joints. The spine features raised raised bands and a lettering piece. The library purchased this title from the Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.


  1. N. G. Jones, ‘Ballow, Henry (1704?–1782)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 20 April 2013
  2. History of English Law VI:191; Sweet & Maxwell, A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth 1:255
  3. N. G. Jones, ‘Ballow, Henry’.
  4. English Short Title Catalog, http://estc.bl.uk, search of "Treatise of Equity" reveals only one folio edition.
  5. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433
  6. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on April 21, 2013, http://www.librarything.com/profile/GeorgeWythe