Unburied Treasure

Unburied Treasure: revealing some lesser-known items in the IALS Library

Finding Treasure

Twenty years ago, Paul Norman (then Senior Assistant Librarian at IALS) decided to investigate some of the hidden treasures we have and how they had been acquired. Thinking it best to concentrate on one or two sections rather than the whole bookstock, he looked at Roman and Roman-Dutch law and English law, and in each case concentrated on items published before 1700. Research showed that such materials were, with an exception noted under Roman Law, usually purchased rather than received as gifts. In the early years of the Institute a number of private libraries were bought, notably in 1948 those of two Cambridge Professors, W.W. Buckland, Regius Professor of Civil Law 1914-1945, and H.D. Hazeltine, Downing Professor of the Law of England from 1919 to 1942.

The opportunities offered by technology emerging since Paul's original research in 1992, mean that IALS is now more than ever able to safeguard and share treasured items for legal researchers through its digitisation and web delivery initiatives. A number of the works, identified below, have been included in selective digitisation work at the Institute - making them freely available in full text PDF format on the web through links in the relevant Library Catalogue records. (See also the IALS Library Digital Collections).

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Roman Law

The Institute possesses approximately fifty works on Roman law dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. About half of these were from a collection of about 5,000 volumes, mainly on private international law and American law, bequeathed to the Institute in 1947 by Dr. Charles Huberich, an international lawyer who practised in Germany. In 1952 a collection of Roman law was purchased from Girton College, Cambridge, including an edition of the Corpus Juris Civilis published by Blaeu, Amsterdam in 1664. A notable addition to the collection was made in the session 1955-56 by the gift of the Roman law books from the Library of Professor J.F. Jolowicz, Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford and for thirty years editor of the Journal of the Society of Public Teachers of Law , who had been chairman of the Committee of Management's Library sub-committee from 1948 until his death. While consisting mainly of modern works, this included a 1563 edition, published in Basel, of the Summa Codicis of Azzo of Bologna (c.1150-1230). This is an index to the Justinian Codex .

Of the great Corpus Juris Civilis itself, the earliest edition we have was published by Chevallon in Paris between 1529 and 1535. These volumes came from the Hazeltine collection mentioned above, but bear the bookplates of Charles Hope Vere, a member of a Scottish family which produced a number of judges, lawyers and one Lord Advocate. At least four other editions before 1600 are in the Library.

Among commentaries on the Corpus Juris there are two volumes by Alexander Tartagnus of Imola (1424-1477): In Codicem Iustinianeum commentariorum and In Digestum vetus lecturae, both published in Leiden in 1562. They are from the Huberich collection.

A curiosity from the Buckland library consists of three small works bound together: Modus legendi abbreviaturas passim in iure tam Civili quam Pontificio . ("How to read legal abbreviations in civil and canon law", i.e. truncated words rather than acronyms!), Legum Flosculi ("little flowers of the law") and Brocardica iuris , a collection of legal maxims. They were published between 1562 and 1566, by Desboys, Paris. In the 2010-2011 session they were included in selective digitisation work at the Institute and have been made freely available on the web in the IALS Library Digital Collections.

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Roman-Dutch Law

Although relegated to history in the Netherlands by the introduction of the Napoleonic Codes, Roman Dutch law remains a strong influence in the former Dutch possessions, particularly South Africa. Since IALS has a special responsibility to collect South African law, it is consequently appropriate that the Institute should maintain a representative collection of the so-called "Old Authorities", namely legal literature published in the Netherlands from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.

The Institute's second annual report (1948-49) mentions that "through the good offices of Mr. A.A. Roberts, now South African High Commissioner in Canada, the Institute had the opportunity of acquiring an extensive library of Roman-Dutch and South African law". Examination of the records shows that this was a collection belonging to Benjamin Arthur Tindall Q.C., judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa from 1938 to 1949. We were further helped by Roberts presenting us with a copy of his classic Bibliography of South African law (Roberts, 1942). Pencil annotations in an unknown hand indicate the most important books, according to "Professor Lee's list". This may be a reference to a list of authorities in An introduction to Roman-Dutch law (Lee, 1953), which ran to five editions between 1915 and 1953. Lee was the first and only Rhodes Professor of Roman-Dutch Law at Oxford, incredibly from 1921 until his retirement in 1956 at the age of eighty-seven.

As indicated in Wessels' History of the Roman-Dutch law (1908), the sources are usually grouped into four main branches: statutes, court decisions, opinions of jurists and treatises.


The best known collection is the Groot Placaatboeck, vervattende de Placaten, Ordonnantien ende Edicten van de Staaten-Generael . (1576-1795). 'sGraven-Hag, de Weduwe, 1658-1797. 10 vols, folio. IALS has the original edition, the source being noted as "Professor Price", presumably T.W. Price, who wrote on Roman-Dutch law.

Court decisions

Three important collections of court decisions are held by the Institute.

NIEUSTAD, Cornelis Mathiasz van (1549-1606): Utriusque, Hollandiae, Zelandiae Frisiaeque curiae decisiones , novissima [i.e. 4 th ] ed. Hagae-Comitis, Steucker, 1667. This is described by Roberts as the "last and most complete edition". In the 2010-2011 session it was included in selective digitisation work at the Institute and has been made freely available on the web in the IALS Library Digital Collections.

SANDE, Johan van den: Decisiones Frisicae sive rerum in Suprema Frisiorum Curia judicatarum libri V . First published in 1634. The Institute has the 10th edition, Amsterdam, 1698. This collection of decisions of the Supreme Court of Friesland was also translated into Dutch as Vijf boecken der gewysder saecken voor den Hove van Vriesland. IALS has the second edition published in Leeuwarden in 1652. In the 2010-2011 session both works were also included in selective digitisation work at the Institute and have been made freely available on the web in the IALS Library Digital Collections.

Sententien en gewezen zaken van den Hoogen en Provincialen Raad in Holland, Zeeland en West Vriesland: eerste deel . Rotterdam. Naeranus, 1962. This is the oldest collection of the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Holland traced by Wessels (1908:237). No other parts were published.

Opinions of jurists

Known collectively as Consultatien en advysen , these are "a very interesting and characteristic feature of the Roman-Dutch system of jurisprudence" (Lee, 1953:19)

The Institute has the following edition:

Consultatien advysen en advertissementen, gegeven ende geschreven by verscheyden treffelijke rechtsgeleerden in Holland. Rotterdam. Naeranus, 1647-1689. Known as the Hollandsche consultatien , these "consist of opinions given in the sixteenth and during the first half of the seventeenth century, and have acquired by usage a foremost place in the legal literature of Holland" (Wessels, 1908:242). The Institute's copy includes both Naeranus' own third volume or Rotterdamsche Derde Deel and that of a rival publisher Colom, the Amsterdamsche Deerde Deel .


Some of the most notable items are:

The towering figure among doctrinal writers is Hugo Grotius (or de Groot) (1583-1645), a jurist of enormous standing in legal history, but also a scholar in history, theology and classics. His fame outside Holland came as one of the founders of modern international law. On Dutch law, his Inleiding tot de Hollandsche Rechtsgeleertheyd (Introduction to Dutch jurisprudence) first appeared in 1631 (and has been made available as a digital version by IALS). The Institute has several editions, notably that edited by Willem Schorer and published at Middleburg in 1767, "the best old edition" (Lee, 1953:15), and three modern English translations (Grotius 1845: 1903; 1926-36). "The influence of the Introduction on the subsequent development of Roman-Dutch law may be compared with that of the Institutes of Justinian upon the spread of Roman law". (Wessels, 1908:263)

Works by Arnoldus Vinnius (1588-1657) include In IV libros Institutionum Imperialium commentarius , (a commentary on the Institutes of Justinian), of which we have the first edition, Lugduni [i.e. Leiden], 1642 and the third, Amsterdam, 1659, as well as "the best edition, with notes by the Prussian jurist Heineccius" (Lee, p.15), Leiden, 1726. (This edition has been made available as a digital version by IALS).This work "remained for a long time the universal textbook of Justinian's Institutes in European universities", but is also a "valuable exposition of the Roman-Dutch law in relation to the law of the Institutes and the Corpus Juris ". (Wessels, 1908:295)

The De criminibus ad lib. XLVII et XLVII Dig . of Antonius Matthaeus II (1601-1654) was "one of the earliest treatises on the criminal law as administered in Holland, and is still frequently referred to in the South African courts" (Wessels, 1908:296). IALS has the first edition, Utrecht, 1644. In the 2010-2011 session it was included in selective digitisation work at the Institute and has been made freely available on the web in the IALS Library Digital Collections.

Simone à Groenewegen van der Made (1613-1652) in his Tractatus de legibus abrogates et inusatis in Hollandia vicinisque regionibus analysed the Corpus Juris by book and title, comparing them with the modern law of Holland. IALS has the third edition, Amsterdam, 1669.

Both the works of Ulrik Huber (1636-1694) mentioned by Professor Lee are in the Library: Praelectionum juris civilis tomi III . (Three volumes of lectures on the civil law) 2 nd ed., Franeker, Strick, 1700-1701 and Haedendaegse rechts-geleertheyt, soo elders als in Frieslandt gebruikelijk . (Modern jurisprudence in Friesland) 3 rd ed., Amsterdam, 1726. An English translation by Percival Gane with the title The jurisprudence of my time , Durban, 1939 is also held.

There are several eighteenth century editions of the main works of Cornelis van Bijnkershoek (1673-1743), as well as his Observationes tumultuarium , first published between 1926 and 1962. Among works by Johannes Voet are the Leiden first edition of the Commentariu ad Pandectas , 1698-1704 and the second edition, The Hague, 1707, both published during the author's lifetime.

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English Law

As Winfield put it, "five stars of the first magnitude have shone in the firmament of legal literature" (Winfield, 1925:254). Each of these: Glanvill, Bracton, Littleton, Coke and Blackstone, as well as Fitzherbert, Hale and Hawkins, are represented in the Institute's collections, often in both older and modern editions. In the English legal history section there are 47 items published before 1700, only five of which were presented to the Institute.

Of Glanvill's Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus Angliae, written in the twelfth century and first printed about 1554, we have an edition of 1604.

Bracton's De legibus et consuetudinibus was written between 1250 and 1258. We have the 1640 reprint of an edition by an unidentified "T.N." first printed in 1569. According to Winfield this "contained a good deal more than Bracton ever wrote" (Winfield, 1925:261). An epitome of Bracton known as Fleta, written about 1290, was printed in 1647. The Institute has the 2nd edition, 1685.

Turning to contemporary publications, we have several editions of Blackstone's Commentaries on the laws of England, beginning with an incomplete first edition 1766-1769, lacking volume 1 of 1765. Fortunately we also have the complete facsimile of this edition, published in 1979. There is an almost unbroken run from the 11th to 19th editions, and an American edition of 1893.

Sir Edward Coke's Institutes of the laws of England are divided into four parts, of which only the first, the Commentary upon Littleton , was published during his lifetime. IALS has the fourth edition, 1639. Part 2: The exposition of many ancient and other statutes is a first edition of 1642. The third and fourth parts, on Pleas of the Crown and Jurisdiction of the courts respectively, were first published in 1644. Our oldest copies are both of the second edition, 1648. All these early copies were presented by Harold Laski in 1948. There are several later editions of each part in the Library.

Some notable early gifts to IALS include a copy of John Selden's History of tithes dated 1618 (which has been made available as a digitial version by IALS). The entry in Sweet & Maxwell's Legal bibliography (Maxwell, 1955:194) presents a surprisingly complicated bibliographical history of the work, several printings apparently appearing in the same year. Our copy was given by Sir William Gibson, sometime president of the Law Society.

There is a comprehensive collection of law reports, including the originals of the series reprinted in the English reports . As to the Year Books, of so-called quarto editions we have those listed in Sweet & Maxwell's Legal bibliography under Yetsweirt, Wight and the Stationers' Company (from the library of Professor Sir Percy Winfield); and Maynard's edition of 1678-80, purchased from the Wolverhampton Law Society (Maxwell, 1955:312-3).

It has always been library policy to collect and retain older editions of treatises, both English and foreign - they form a useful resource for historical legal research.

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Major Sources of Gifts

Gifts to the Institute may be divided into grants or gifts of money, often for several purposes apart from book purchasing, and gifts of books or collections of books.

Over the years the Institute has benefited from much generous financial assistance, most notably that of £650,000 from Sir Charles Clore which largely financed the building of our current premises. Funding for the Library has come from many sources. From many years Commonwealth law was received free by arrangement with the Colonial Office. The Nuffield Foundation provided a grant of £10,000 in 1947 for the establishment of a Nuffield Library of Commonwealth Law , formally opened in June 1950, and in the 1960s the sum of £12,500 for the purchase of west European law. The Ford Foundation gave us $192,000 in 1964-1970 under four heads, including the purchase of American law books, and a further grant of $80,000 in 1971, of which $16,000 was earmarked for library acquisitions. In the late 1980s funding over a three-year period for Commonwealth law reports came from the British Library, and the early 1990s saw the transfer of a substantial collection of Commonwealth legislation from the Library of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to IALS. This is held under a trust deed agreed between the FCO and the University of London.

Collections donated by other corporate bodies include much material from the House of Commons Library, the Canada Law Library of the Canadian Government and the Latin American law collection from Canning House Library (The Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Council).

A collection of works on comparative law, foreign law and private international law which had formed part of the library of the late Sir Otto Kahn-Freund were generously presented to the Institute by his widow and daughter in 1980. Among inter vivos gifts was a collection of Roman law and continental law belonging to Mr Alexander Bischoff, including a fine copy of the Mommsen edition of the Corpus Juris Civilis . Even online technology, in the form of the LEXIS database, was originally funded from a bequest to the University by Dr. W.G. Hart, who was awarded the LL.D. degree in 1905.

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Non-Book Materials

Judicial proceedings

Transcripts of British and Irish court proceedings are received regularly by the British and Irish Legal Information Institute based at IALS and are loaded into the BAILII service which is freely available on the web.

IALS holds records of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which were originally sent from the Privy Council office. For most cases, the documents held are the Judgment, Case for the appellant, Case for the respondent, and Pleadings. A large proportion are nineteenth century Canadian appeals. Privy Council decisions are freely available online on the BAILII Privy Council Decisions database.

Three special collections may be mentioned under this heading. The first is a set of documents relating to the Nuremberg trials of war criminals belonging to Norman Birkett, afterwards Lord Birkett, which was presented by his widow in the 1961/62 session. Birkett acted as alternate to the British judge on the Tribunal, Lord Justice Lawrence. A list of documents is kept with the collection, but it is not otherwise recorded in the Library catalogue.

Secondly we have a transcript of proceedings in the case of United States of America v. David T. Dellinger, et al (the so-called "Chicago riot trial"), decided in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. 1969-1970. Typescript documents in 35 boxes.

Finally there is the record of proceedings, minutes of evidence, final submissions of counsel in the Scarman Tribunal (Tribunal of inquiry into the acts of violence and civil disorders in Northern Ireland). This is the only mainland copy outside the British Library.

The Institute was one of many libraries to receive the minutes of evidence to the Benson Commission (Royal Commission on Legal Services, 1976-1979), and has a similar collection from the Donovan Commission (Royal Commission on trade unions and employers'


Items of particular note include: A.V. Dicey's lecture notes for his course on contract, 1890-91. These are typescript, with manuscript notes by H.C. Dowdall, a County court judge and Chancellor of the Dioceses of Liverpool and Bristol. Two manuscripts (in the IALS Archives) by F.W. Maitland: The body politic and The unincorporated body were presented by his daughter in the session 1954. Finally we have Roscoe Pound's lectures on jurisprudence at Harvard Law School: a typescript set of notes taken by Sir Douglas Logan, afterwards Principal of the University of London, during his Henry Fellowship, 1935-1936.

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Grotius, H. (1845) The introduction to Dutch jurisprudence of Hugo Grotius now first rendered into English, by Charles Herbert. London: van Voorst.

Grotius, H. (1903) The introduction to Dutch jurisprudence. with an appendix containing selections from the notes of William Schorer, translated by A.F.S. Maasdorp . 3 rd ed., Capetown: Juta.

Grotius, H. (1926-36) The jurisprudence of Holland . translated with brief notes and commentary, by R.W. Lee . Oxford: Clarendon Pr.

Lee, R.W. (1953) An introduction to Roman-Dutch law. 5th ed., Oxford: Clarendon Pr.

Maxwell, W.H. and L.F. (1955) A legal bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Vol.1: English law to 1800 . London: Sweet & Maxwell.

Roberts, A.A. (1942) A South African legal bibliography . Pretoria: Department of Justice.

Wessels, J.W. (1908) History of the Roman-Dutch law . Grahamstown: African Book Co.

Winfield, P.H. (1925) The chief sources of English legal history . Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Pr.

This web page draws on and updates information in the article: "Buried Treasure: some lesser-known items in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies" by Paul Norman, B.A., M.A., A.L.A. - formerly Senior Assistant Librarian, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. The article was published originally in: The Law Librarian, vol.23, no.2, June 1992 pp.99-103. A preprint is available in the IALS institutional repository within SAS-Space.

Page last updated: 8th August 2016