English Medieval Legal Documents ›
1.1 - Scope of the Guide

It has been over fifty years since W. Harold Maxwell,(1) Joseph H. Beale,(2) and Percy H. Winfield(3) published their separate monumental bibliographies of English law. While these volumes remain extremely useful for their scholarly treatment of early legal publishing, there seemed to be a need for an update, which this present work hopes to fill.

This is especially the case since such a large amount of legal material is now available to scholars online, and Section 9 of this wiki describes the major full-text legal online sources. These sources may be subscription databases produced by publishers such as Thomson/Gale and William S. Hein, PDF files made freely available on websites such as that of the National Archives, archival databases of digitized manuscripts such as The Avalon Project, or scholarly websites, such as Lawlinks, which link to multiple data sources. In addition to Section 9, online availability of individual titles is indicated within the bibliography itself, although this can only be viewed as a snapshot which is current as of compilation date, since so many titles are being digitized on a daily basis. A search of Google Scholar (4) or WorldCat (5) can determine if a specific title is available online. The highlighted OCLC numbers for each individual title will link the user directly to WorldCat?, where it is possible to identify the nearest library holding the item. The URL's for open source items have been included in this guide, while the URL's for subscription databases have not been listed, since these are individually tailored to the subscribing institution.

This present compilation covers the medieval period up to 1535. This date seemed a convenient cut off point, since that year marks the end of production of the year books. As can be seen in the outline, the material has been divided into broad categories, such as court records, statutory records, etc. Within these categories, wherever it seemed appropriate, the entries have been arranged first by material type, plea rolls, courts reports, calendars, etc., and then chronologically by regnal year. When the resource covers the reigns of several monarchs, or even the entire period, it is listed separately under each monarch. Titles are given in the language in which they appear on the title page of the volume, with an additional English title if the item has been translated. Some items are known by several variant titles, and these have been included wherever possible.

Emphasis in this guide has been placed on sources published since 1950. Only the most important titles from the exhaustive earlier bibliographies have been included here, in order to maintain the stand-alone usefulness of this present guide. References are made throughout the guide to the earlier bibliographies for those who wish to delve more deeply into the topic.

Direct links to the full text of original documents have been inserted wherever possible. Any additional links users can provide will be extremely helpful.

The publication of medieval source material has been fragmented over the years, relying to a large extent on the scholarly work of learned societies, such as the Selden Society, the Ames Foundation, and the Pipe Roll Society, and of numerous local historical societies, whose output can be of varying quality. E. L. C. Mullins, Texts and Calendars: An Analytical Guide to Serial Publications (1958-83) gives an excellent, if now dated guide to the texts and calendars of source materials issued by the many learned and local societies, as well as by various government entities. Many of these local societies and government agencies now have lists of their publications online, and wherever possible, links have been made throughout this guide to their URL's. Any additional links users can provide would be very useful.

An ambitious undertaking, sponsored by the Record Commissioners, which should be mentioned, is the publication of the Rolls Series, which while not an exclusively legal source, contains much legal material. Unfortunately the project proved too expensive and had to be brought to an end. Official publication of government records is now the responsibility of the National Archives, formerly the Public Record Office. Because of the enormity of this task, they are now concentrating on publishing calendars of records instead of the full texts. The Public Record Office has published an important series of Lists and Indexes to their publications. A complete listing of these bibliographies can be found on the National Archives website at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/default.htm .

I would like to express my appreciation to Daniel Klerman, Professor of Law at the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law, who first suggested this guide, and whose encouragement and advice made it possible.


1. Maxwell, William H. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Volume 1: English Law to 1800. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955-
2. Beale, Joseph H. A Bibliography of Early English Law Books. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.
3. Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.
4. Google Scholar search engine at http://scholar.google.com/
5. WorldCat, the Online Computer Library Center's bibliographic database at http://www.worldcat.org/

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