Year Books

Year Books
The earliest reports of cases heard in the courts of King's Bench, Common Pleas, and before the Justices Itinerant, in England, covering the period from about 1270 to 1530. The reports for this period are presently extant in manuscripts in a more or less regular series from the l8th year of the reign of Edward I down through the 27th year of the reign of Henry VIlIth, and are attempted verbatim accounts of what was said in open court by the Justices and counsel, written in abbreviated Anglo-French, and, perhaps, the earliest of which were taken down privately by counsel and students of the law, and, it would seem, toward the end of the period by professional private scribes as a business venture. In short, they are contemporary reports of English law not only of the utmost value but the like of which is to be found in no other legal system. The reports for individual years (consisting of the four terms of court: Hilary, Easter, Trinity, and Michaelmas) were collected and bound together and hence came to be known as the Year Books. It has been conclusively established that these reports were not made by the prothonotaries, or chief scribes of the court at the expense of the crown, as Blackstone erroneously reports, but rather that they were the result of the private enterprise of the English Bar. The Year Books had a wide private circulation in manuscript form down to the time when printing came into common use. Except for reports from the reigns of Edward 1, Edward II, and Richard 11 (for which there is still abundant manuscript authority extant today) reports for various individual years and groups of years, without any attention to chronological order, were printed in many editions during the 16th-century. A "Quarto" edition of previously printed reports was printed in ten volumes at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the l7th century. In 1678-1680 there was printed what is known as the "Folio" or "Vulgate" edition of the Year Books which, in addition to reprinting the hithertofore black-letter printed texts of the Year Books from the reign of Edward III down through the 27th year of the reign of Henry VIII (omitting the reports from the reign of Richard 11, some of which were first printed in modern times), printed for the first time, from one manuscript, the reports of 1-19,Edward 11. This "edition of 1679", as it is sometimes called, was made up of eleven volumes. In modern times the English Records Commission has published in modern form in the Rolls Series the reports of 20-35 Edward 1, and 11-20 Edward III; the Selden Society has published Year Books 1-12 Edward 11 and I Henry VI; the Ames Foundation of Harvard has published the Year Books 11-13 Richard 11; and, Sweet & Maxwell, the Year Books 9-10 Henry V. Note: The foregoing dissertation on the Year Books is the work of Mr. Ralph V. Rogers of the Editorial Staff of the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company. Such contribution is acknowledged with appreciation. W.S.A.

Ballentine's law dictionary. . 1998.

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