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MANUSCRIPTS. Account of the Manuscript Library of Lincoln's Inn. By the Right Honourable Sylvester Douglas, (now LORD Glenbervie) Master of the Library
But the most convenient method of rendering of public and general use, such parts of the collection as might seeni to deserve it, (and I shall submit that there are many such) would be to print them, where hitherto inedited, from transcripts to be made for that purpose, and to collate those which have already been published with the printed copies, for the purpose of more valuable editions thereof; a col lation being also made, in both cases, with such other aus thentic manuscripts of the same matters and documents as inay exist in other public repositories.
. This however the Society might not think themselves warranted to permit, as to those manuscripts which were left to them by Sir MATTHEW Hale, on account of the strong espression in his will to the contrary (whatever opinion they may entertain of the propriety of the restriction thereby intended to be imposed) unless they should be directed so to do, by such authority as might justify a departure from that injunction. ;
. . In the year 1767, their predecessors, the. Benchers of that time, in compliance with certain orders of the House of Lords, and of a Committee of that House, did allow transcripts to be made from some of those mapuscripts, for the express purpose of printing them. The orders alluded to, and the proceedings connected therewith, are of the following dates : March 9th, 24th, April 1st, 10th, 20th, and June 30th, 1767, and February 15th, 1768, VOL. I.
On an examination of the books of this Society, during the above period, no entries have been found relative to the matter of the orders and proceedings, above mentioned ; but it appears from the printed Rolls, that in consequence thereof, there were printed from Lord Chief Justice Hale's Manuscripts, the following particulars, viz.
EDWARD I. Petitiones in Parliamento, Anno 6to. vol. I, p. 1.-Writ to the Justices relative to leap year, p. 146.
EDWARD II. . Petitiones in Parliamento, Anno 2do. p. 273-Petitiones in Parliamento, Anno 18vo. p. 416-Aliæ Petitiones in Parliamento, 19no. p. 431,
EDWARD III. Petitiones in Parliamento Anno 2do. vol. II, p. 13.-Petitiones in Parliamento Anno 4to. p. 31–Ditto, Anno 8vo. p. 73— Ditto, Anno 12mo. p. 97- Ditto, 21mo. p. 75. Ditto, 21mo. and 20mo. p. 205. ..
Henry IV. Petitiones in Parliamento, Anno 2do. vol. III, p. 480Ditto, Anno 4to.p.512.
Henry V. · Petitiones in Parliamento. Anno 9to. vol. IV, p. 163.
I have judged it right to set forth specially all that could be stated with authenticity relative to this departure, under the direction and authority of the House of Lords, from the words of Sir MATTHEW Haze's will, as, when we consider the eminent persons then living who were Benchers, or had been members of the Society, it will not be doubted but that they must have given due consideration to the subject ; and must have thought that they were either bound to a compliance with the orders of that House and its sub-committee, or at least fully justified in that compliance. Their conduct on that occasion, may therefore perhaps be considered as having formed a rule and prece
dent for a like compliance with any similar order of either House of Parliament. Indeed, it can hardly be supposed, that Sir MATTHEW HALE himself would have wished to oppose his own desire of wit hholding his manu. scripts from the public to such high authority ; although a sense of the value of his gift to the Society, and an anxiety for its preservation, may seem to have led him in making his will, into a way of thinking on the subject, inconsistent with his general love of his profession, and that zeal for extending to the country at large the benefit of his great learning which he so fully manifested by the valuable works be himself either published or prepared for the press.
Should there remain no insurmountable obstacle, from the condition annexed to the gift of Sir Matthew Hale, I think it my duty to suggest that great public benefit might be derived from the printing, or re-printing, with proper care, and in a manner accommodated to general ease and convenience in consultation or perusal, many works and documents, of which the only existing or the best manuscripts are in this collection : as well as others, in regard to which the materials in other repositories might be greatly assisted and improved, by a comparison with those belonging to this Society. I mean here chiefly to refer to matters of three sorts ; viz. 1. YEAR BOOKS.2. JUDICIAL RECORDS—3. Statutes.
Year Books. Whatever may have been the nature of the authority under which those books were compiled, and whatever the particular description of the compilers (concerning which there seems to be a considerable diver- ' sity of opinion,) they are universally considered as containing official and authentic accounts of the ar-,' guments and decisions in the most important causes which
came before the chief tribunals of this country, from a very early period down to the general introduction of printing, about which time certain eminent judges and lawyers, as Keilway, Moore, Benloe, Dyer, Plowden, &c. began without any special appointment or duty, to make similar compilations, with a view of committing them to the press. Such a valuable monument of practical law and jurisprudence as the Year Books, probably, does not exist in any other country. But,
1. In the printed editions of these important Annals, there are many chasms and interruptions in the series of years.
2. The printed copies abound with many imperfections of other sorts. The cases, arguments, and judgments, are not so fully stated in them, as they are to be met with in some of the Manuscripts, because those editions were (as it should seem) made from other manuscripts less com- ; plete; the editors not having bad the means, or industry, at least, of resorting to those which were more full and accurate.
3. They are printed so close, so many of the manuscript abbreviations are retained, and there is so little separation into paragraphs, or distinction be tween what is said by the council, and what by the judges, that it often requires the experience, and sagacity of a legal antiquary, and generally much more time than the practising lawyer can be stow, to read, or rather to decypher, the passages to which there is occasion to refer,
4. There is no general well digested Index to them,
First, of the Chasins.-There are extant in inanuscript. in this and other repositories, Year Books from the reign. of Edward I, inclusive, to the first year of Henry VIII; but of the series of years, in that long space of time, there ale wanting in the printed editions :
The whole of the reign of Edward I, except the short Memoranda in Scaccario, prefixed te what now forms the first printed volume.
The reign of Edward III, Ann. 11 to 16. Ann. 19, 20, apd 31 to 37.
The whole of Richard II; of Henry V, Ann. 3, 4, and 6; of Henry VII, Ann. 17, 18, 19.
A variety of reasons concur to render it probable, that if not the whole, a considerable part of these deficiencies might be supplied from existing manuscripts.
As to the reign of Edward I, it is clear from Fitzherbert's · Abridgment that there were extant in his time, Year Books of that period, and Sir MATTHEW Hale, in his History of the Common Law, mentions“ that some of those, though broken, yet the best of their kind, were then in Lincoln's Inn Library.” (Çap. 8. p. 166.) On the present occasion, Mr. Caley having examined No. 141, according to the Catalogue in the Library, finds that it contains the three following years of Edward I, viz. 17, 18, and 19, in a regular series; and that No. 188 contains different cases in the 30th, 31st, and 32d; and the above passagein Sir Matthew HALE seems to shew, that other manuscripts of other parts of this reign existed in his time,* which on proper investigation, may be found in other repositories. What he says of the merit of those reports, independent of their priority of date, must certainly excite a strong wish to see as complete a collection of them as can be formed, added to the existing printed Year Books of the succeeding reigns,
* In the Schedule to his Will there is this Article ; “ Reports temp. Edw. I, under titles, one voluine," but no corresponding book is now to be found in the Library,
In the proceedings of the House of Lords, another Book is mentioned which is not now, in the Library; viz. “ Abstracts of Summons and Rolls of Parliament out of the Book of Dunelm ; and some records alphabetically digested."