Treatise of Equity

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Ballow, Henry. A Treatise of Equity. First edition. 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.

This 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."[1]

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."[2]

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. Both the Brown Bibliography[3] and George Wythe's Library[4] on LibraryThing list this title as the one intended by Jefferson's entry. The first edition is the only folio edition of this work.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

The Wolf Law Library owns a copy bound in contemporary calf with blind rules to the boards, blind fillets along the joints. The spine features raised raised bands and a lettering piece. Light rubbing to extremities, a few minor nicks to boards, corners lightly bumped, joints just starting at ends, hinges cracked but secure. Offsetting to margin of preliminaries and final few leaves, light foxing in a few places, interior otherwise fresh. Purchased from the Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.


  1. History of English Law VI:191; Sweet & Maxwell, A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth 1:255
  2. N. G. Jones, ‘Ballow , Henry (1704?–1782)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 20 April 2013
  3. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file.
  4. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on April 21, 2013,