Thomas de Littleton Tenures 1481

Littleton Tenures 1481 – Treatise on Tenures – The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Kingdom of England

Thomas de Littleton (c.1422–1481)

Thomas de Littleton Tenures - Sir Thomas de Littleton authored the first legal textbook, Treatise on Tenures.
Thomas de Littleton Tenures – Sir Thomas de Littleton authored the first legal textbook, Treatise on Tenures.

In the mid-fifteenth century, the printing press ushered in revolutionary transformations in many elements of European culture and society.

The ability to communicate written content, ranging from one-page pamphlets to multivolume volumes, all teeming with knowledge to be spread and gained, lay the foundation for numerous profound breakthroughs that accumulated over the years.

Those revolutionary developments were felt in the legal field as well, albeit there was some initial resistance to textbooks.Long before the printing machine, two of England’s most illustrious jurists penned important legal documents.

The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Kingdom of England, written by Ranulf de Glanville, chief justiciar during Henry II’s reign, was the first text on English law.

Henry de Bracton, an English jurist, authored On the Laws and Customs of England in 1235, laying out rules for criminal intent and kingly authority. However, legal historians consider Thomas de Littleton’s Treatise on Tenures, published in 1481, to be the first true legal textbook, containing narrative explanation and analysis rather than simply collecting source texts on the subject. Tenures by Littleton was a huge success.

The book was hailed as “the adornment of the common law, and the most perfect and absolute work that has ever been published in any human study” by English jurist Lord Edward Coke, whose 1628 Commentary on Littleton established a standard. “I don’t know any book which puts the outlines of the ancient common law in such a clear shape,” stated nineteenth-century legal historian F. W. Maitland of Littleton’s Tenures.

Littleton set a precedent for subsequent scholars to follow in their own treatises. They provided organization and meaning to the law by giving a complete and authoritative presentation of legal doctrine, especially as the number of cases and statutes grew.

SEE ALSO:

Les Termes de la Ley (1527);

Blackstone’s Commentaries (1765);

The Field Code (1848);

Law Reporting and Legal Publishing (1872).

Sources:

First Copyright Infringement

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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