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BLACKSTONE, Sir William.

Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1765-9 Stock Code: 130572
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The greatest work on English law

First edition of volumes I, III and IV, second edition of volume II. "Blackstone's great work on the laws of England is the extreme example of justification of an existing state of affairs by virtue of its history... Until the Commentaries, the ordinary Englishman had viewed the law as a vast, unintelligible and unfriendly machine... Blackstone's great achievement was to popularize the law and the traditions which had influenced its formation... He takes a delight in describing and defending as the essence of the constitution the often anomalous complexities which had grown into the laws of England over the centuries. But he achieves the astonishing feat of communicating this delight, and this is due to a style which is itself always lucid and graceful" (PMM).

With the "Supplement to the First Edition; Containing the most material Corrections and Additions in the Second" bound in to the rear of vol. I; the Supplement is chipped and soiled with extensive pen trials in a contemporary hand. The Supplement was issued with the second edition in 1766 and is occasionally found bound with the first edition. In this instance, the differences in condition between the book and Supplement implies the two were married relatively recently, although it is possible that the Supplement was only loosely inserted into the book for much of its life (as is the case with the Rothschild copy) and consequently became more battered. Eller, in her catalogue of the Blackstone Collection in Yale Law Library, calls the presence of the Supplement in a first edition of the Commentaries "excessively rare", although a survey of copies shows that this is an exaggeration.

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4 volumes, quarto (261 x 209 mm). Recent brown morocco, black morocco labels.


2 engraved tables (1 folding) in volume II.


Ownership signature of James Coulthard to title pages in vols. I, III and IV; first volume with a few marginal annotations in the same hand and errata corrected in pencil in a later hand. Some toning and occasional foxing to contents (vol. I with large fox marks in places), a few instances of minor staining. A very good set.


ESTC T57753 & T57754; Printing and the Mind of Man 212; Rothschild 407; Eller, The William Blackstone Collection in the Yale Law Library, pp. 1-2.


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