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Machlinia (1481 or 1482). He is thought to have printed Y. B. 30-37 Henry VI, and possibly Y. B. 20 Henry VI. Pynson (14931528) was their earliest systematic publisher. Fifty editions certainly, and perhaps five more, bear his name. Sixteen others are also attributed to him. His editions published between 1510 and 1520 cover 40-50 Edward III, most of the years of Henry VI and Edward IV, and the almost contemporary years of 9 & 12 Henry VII and 14 Henry VIII. Rastell, Redman, Thomas
, Berthelet, William Myddelton, Henry Smyth, and William Powell were their chief publishers during the first half of the sixteenth century' They published them in separate years separately
? folioed and dated. At most two were bound together. The booksellers or the lawyers bound these parts together in chronological order
In 1553 Richard Tottell began his publications of the Year Books. During the thirty-eight years of his activity he succeeded in driving out all his rivals. • There are,' says Mr. Soule, about 225 known editions of separate years or groups of years which bear his imprint or can be surely attributed to his press.' Early in his publishing career Tottell began to publish the separate years in groups. Thus in 1553 he printed the years 1-14 Henry IV as one book; so, in 1555 he printed the years 1-21 Henry VII, in 1556 the years 40-50 Edward II, in 1562 the years 1-10 Edward III, and in 1563 the years of Henry V 3.
From 1587 to 1638 onwards the Year Books were published in parts ; and these parts are known as the quarto edition—though really they consisted of small folio volumes. The parts were published as follows:
I. 1587. The long report of the fifth year of Edward IV's
reign known as the “ Longo Quinto. This was republished
in 1638. II. 1596. Years 1-10 of Edward III's reign. III. 1597. The Year Books of 1 Edward V, I & 2
Richard III, 1-21 Henry VII, and the years 12, 13, 14,
18, 19, 26, 27 of Henry VIII. IV, 1599. Years 1-22 of Edward IV. V. 1600. Years 40-50 of Edward III, known as “Quadra
1 Soule, 563, 564.
2 Soule, 561. $ Ibid., 564, 565. At p. 562 Mr. Soule says, “It would seem that while the printers issued separate years and even supplied separate sheets to complete imperfect years, the booksellers and lawyers bound together after 1550, and probably even before that time, these separate pamphlets in chronological order, by reigns, with very much the same arrangement followed in the 1679 edition. But there was no uniformity of editions or imprints-every owner making his own combinations as he happened to get hold of different editions of the several years." VOL. XXII.
VI. 1601. Years 21-39 of Henry VI, omitting years 23-26
VII. 1605. Years 1-14 of Henry IV, and years 1, 2, 5, 7,
8, 9 of Henry V. VIII. 1606. The Liber Assisarum, i.e. a selection of cases
taken from all years of Edward III's reign, and chronologically arranged. They are reported more concisely than the cases in the other collections ; but at greater length than
the cases in the Abridgements. IX. 1609. Years 1-20 of Henry VI, omitting years 5, 6, 13,
15, 16, 17. X. 1619. Years 17-39 of Edward III, omitting years 19,
20, 31-37. Thus it is only in the first part of this so-called 'Quarto' edition that the original plan of publication in separate years survives.
Between 1638 and 1679 there was a cessation in the publication of the Year Books. They grew so scarce that in 1678 a complete collection was said to have been sold for £401. In 1679 there appeared the standard edition of the Year Books. It consists of eleven parts, the first only of which is new. The first part purports to be the Year Books of Edward I and II's reign, selong les ancient Manuscripts ore remanent en les Maines de Sir Jehan Maynard Chevalier Serjeant de la ley.' It consists of Memoranda
' in Scaccario only of 1-29 Edward I, and Year Books of 1-19 Edward II. The other ten parts are substantially a reprint of the quarto edition arranged chronologically. The edition is in large folio. Two sides of the leaf of the older edition are contained on one page—a letter B in the margin marking the reverse of the sheet.
This edition therefore for the most part simply reprints those of the Year Books which had been already collected by the industry of the law publishers of the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries. Neither the older editions nor the later show any signs of careful editing. In some cases, where two reports of the same case were found in different MSS., 'the second report is dissociated from the first, and either made to appear as a report of a different case, or else labelled as a residuum or continuation?' It is true that Tottell takes credit to himself for having done something in the way of correction 3; and there are a few signs that in some cases more than one MS. has been con
i Soule, 565.
3 See passages from Tottell's editions of Magna Carta, and the Quadragesms cited by Soule, 563, 564, 568.
sulted 1. The edition of 1679 also claims to be corrected and amended; but in the opinion of those most competent to judge this claim is not justified Professor Maitland has collected crushing evidence of the carelessness with which it has been printed 2. He shows that the MS. which Maynard lent, and the table of matters which he furnished, have been so printed that it is almost impossible to make sense of the greater part of the cases. sheer nonsense those old black letter books are but too full 3.' And at the present day the books which served lawyers steeped in the old learning of real actions will not serve us, because 'we have not earned the right to guess what a mediaeval law report ought to say 4. Probably Maynard, whose life covered nearly the whole of the seventeenth century 5, was the last who had thus earned the right to guess what the report ought to have said. The other ten parts of the standard edition are not perhaps so bad as the first part. The printer had a printed text before him and not merely a MS.; but even so, Mr. Pike says that the earlier editions are preferable to the later editions. The truth is that the same causes which caused the Register of Writs to become an obsolete book caused the Year Books to become obsolete reports. A large, perhaps the largest, part of the cases reported turned upon the management of a system of procedure which had practically come, with the disuse of many of the older writs, to belong to the past; and the language in which these cases were reported gradually grew more and more unlike that which the lawyers used. What was valuable in the Year Books had passed into the printed Abridgements. For the new law there were modern reports written in modern style.
From 1679 to 1863 nothing was done for the Year Books. The Select Committee on Public Records reported in 1800 that the series of Year Books should be completed by publishing those hitherto unpublished, and by reprinting from more correct copies those which were already in print. This recommendation was not followed till 1863, wben the series of unpublished Year Books of Edward I's reign and one year of Edward III's reign were edited for the Rolls Series by Mr. Horwood between the years 1863 and 1883. In 1885 Mr. Pike took up Mr. Horwood's work upon the Year Books of Edward III's reign. He was the first to begin the practice of collating the Year Books with the plea roll—the formal record of the case---and he thereby has shown us, who have not earned the
3 Ibid. xxi, • Ibid. xxviii; to the same effect Mr. Pike, The Green Bag, xii. 535. • Born 1602, died 1690. • Cooper, Public Records, ii. 390, 391.
right to guess,' the way to verify". The process,' says Mr. Pike, of comparing a report with a record serves a double purpose. On the one hand it gives an authority to the text which would otherwise be wanting; it furnishes a means of deciding between conflicting MSS., and it affords a key to the correct translation of doubtful passages. On the other hand it supplies a ready mode of extracting, from a very valuable but extremely bulky and much neglected class of records, precisely that kind of information which is of the highest value and of the greatest interest. The Year Books are, in fact, to those who know how to use them, the most perfect guides to almost all that is important in the rolls 2' It has been truly said that this step'will hereafter be regarded as an important advance in the study of English history 3.' Professor Maitland has followed Mr. Pike's lead in the edition of the Year Books of Edward II's reign which the Selden Society is publishing under his editorship. The excellence of the editing, the introductions and the notes will, if the series continue, go far to justify Professor Maitland's assertion that 'our formulary system as it stood and worked in the fourteenth century might be known so thoroughly that a modern lawyer who had studied it might give sound advice, even upon points of practice, to a hypothetical cliento? But to understand the full force of this saying we must pass to our second section—the origin and characteristics of the Year Books.
(2) The origin and charaeteristics of the Year Books. Till quite recent years it was believed that the Year Books, at all events the Year Books from Edward III's reign down to Henry VII's reign, were compiled by official reporters paid by the Crown. This belief, which was shared by Coke 5, Bacon", and Blackstone ?, ultimately rests upon some words used by Plowden in the preface to his reports. “As I have been credibly informed,' he says, 'there
1 Mr. Pike, Harv. Law Rev. vii. 266, says: "The report was intended for the use of the legal profession . . . It was designed to show general principles of law, pleading or practice . . . The record, on the other hand, was drawn up for the purpose of preserving an exact account of the proceedings in the particular case in perpetuam rei memoriam, but only in the form allowed by the court. The report contains not only the reasons eventually accepted, but often the reasons or arguments which preceded each, and the reasons or arguments for which other pleadings were disallowed.'
? Y. B. 13, 14 Ed. III (R. S.), xvi, xvii; the idea seems to have been anticipated by Blackstone, see Comm. i. 71. Y. B. 1, a Ed. II (S. S.), xxxi.
* Ibid. xvii. • Co. Rep. iii, Pref.
& Works, v. 86; in 1617 Bacon persuaded James I“to revive the ancient custom! by appointing two reporters, 'to attende our Courts at Westminster,' at a salary of £100 a year, Rymer, Foedera, xvii, 27, 28.
? Comm. i. 71, 72. Blackstone adds or invents the information that the reports were made by the prothonotaries.
were anciently four reporters of cases in our law who were chosen and appointed for that purpose, and had a yearly stipend from the King for their trouble therein ; which persons used to confer together at the making and collecting of a report, and their report being made and settled by so many, and by men of such approved learning, carried great credit with it.' It is clear that Plowden’s statement rested merely upon report; and the statements of later authorities are merely amplifications of his words.
Sir Frederick Pollock bas suggested to me that Plowden's words do not necessarily refer to the Year Books at all. He thinks that they may refer simply to legends of good old days which never had any historical existence. Plowden is not, as Sir Frederick Pollock suggests, writing history: he is simply finding a rhetorical excuse for his shyness in publishing his own reports. If, in fact, any regular system of reporting by official reporters had been in force in the latest period of the Year Books he might well have known men who had personal knowledge of it; and surely both his praise of its merit and his regret for its discontinuance would have been more definite. Sir Frederick Pollock, therefore, inclines to the view that the tale of the official origin of the Year Books is pure fiction. Additional probability is lent to this view by the following passage which occurs later in Plowden's preface :
* And (in my humble Apprehension) these Reports [i. e. his own] excell any former Book of Reports in Point of Credit and Authority, for other Reports generally consist of the sudden sayings of the Judges upon Motions of the Serjeants and Counsellors at the Bar, whereas all the Cases here reported are upon Points of Law tried and debated upon Demurrers or special Verdicts, Copies whereof were delivered to the Judge, who studied and considered them, and for the most part argued in them, and after great and mature Deliberation gave Judgment thereupon, so that (in my opinion) these Reports carry with them the greatest Credit and Assurance.
The reports to which Plowden considers his own to be superior cannot well be the same as those of the four men; for he evidently considered his own to be inferior to them. On the other hand these reports which he considered to be inferior to his own are very probably the Year Books. They answer to his description of these inferior reports; and they are in fact inferior to his own reports in exactly the points which he notes. If this suggestion be true the whole foundation for the belief in the official origin of the Year Books is destroyed. But however this may be, the three most recent editors of Year Books, Mr. Horwood, Mr. Pike ?,
1 Y. B. 30, 31 Ed. I (R. S.), xxiii, xxiv. * Y. B. 14, 15 Ed. III (R. S.), xv; 18 Ed. III, 1xxx, lxxzi.