Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

English Legal History Research Guide

Contents of this guide include print, micro-media and Internet resources available to facilitate research in legal history at Georgetown Law.

Commentaries & Institutes

Commentaries and institutes were common names for contemporary writer, lawyers, judges and others to analyze the law and bring together clearer explanations of what the law meant, and how it was interpreted. The two most widely influential such treatises are listed below, but many others exist.

A. Blackstone's Commentaries 

Blackstone's Commentaries is often the first place one will look for an explanation of English law. There are over 80 editions of Blackstone's Commentaries in the Law Library. Most often, it is the first edition that is needed, yet older editions with editorial commentaries from other editors are often important as well. There is a finding aid to all the editions (reprints, microfiche or original) ofBlackstone's Commentaries available in Special Collections. A few editions are available in full print and on the web.

  • Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. 4 vols. Reprint ed. of London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1783. New York: Garland, 1978. KD660 .B53 1978
  • Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. 4 vols. Facsimile reprint ed. of the 1st ed. of 1765-69. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. KD660 .B52 1765 1979 
  • Blackstone, William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. 4 vols. 3rd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1768. KD660 .B4 1768 Quarto

B. Coke's Institutes

Coke's Institutes are in four parts, and known equally well as Coke's Institutes or First Part of the Institutes, Second Part of the Institutes, etc. Cites to Coke's Institutes are usually in the following form: 2 Inst., 1 Inst., etc. The First part of Coke's Institutes is also known as Coke on Littleton, orLittleton's Tenures. Listed here are the reprints, and some of the original editions available in the Library and Special Collections. Microfiche editions are also available in Media.

  • Coke, Edward. Institutes of the Laws of England. 3 vols. Reprint of: London: Society of Stationers, 1628. New York: Garland, 1979. (Parts 1, 3 & 4 only). KD600 .C64 1979r pt. 1KD600 .C64 1979r pts. 3-4
    • Wolff Library also has the 1985 and 1986 reprint editions. Special Collections also has the 1985 reprint edition from the Legal Classics Library for Part 1 only.
  • Coke, Edward. The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, or a Commentarie Upon Littleton. 8th ed. London: Society of Stationers, 1670. KD600 .C64 1670 Folio
  • Coke, Edward. Institutes of the Laws of England. 7 vols. 17th ed. London: W. Clarke, et al., 1817. KD600 .C64 1817 Quarto