Common Law Scholarship and the Written Word

Ian Williams

in The Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700

Published in print June 2017 | ISBN: 9780199660889
Published online August 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780191768200 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Common Law Scholarship and the Written Word

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This chapter considers early modern common law scholarship both in the Inns of Court and outside of them. It investigates the relationship between oral scholarship in the Inns, manuscript, and printed texts. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have been identified as the period in which the common law changed from a system of predominantly oral learning to one based primarily on texts. Particular attention is paid to the issue of the circulation of legal scholarship, particularly in manuscript, the possibility of scribal production, and the limits on such circulation. The chapter also considers the purpose(s) behind certain forms of scholarship, such as patronage, and the textual sources used by common lawyers.

Keywords: Inns of Court; readings; manuscripts; print; scribal publication; patronage

Article.  9874 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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