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and Professor Maitland !, are inclined, for the following reasons, to think that there is very little ground for the traditional belief—that it is certainly not true of the earliest Year Books, and probably not true of any. (:) We do not find any official record of the appointment of such reporters, nor are payments to them anywhere enrolled. (2) If the reports were made by royal officials we should expect to find official copies preserved for the use of the Court; but, says Professor Maitland, so far as we are aware our manuscript Year Books always come to us from private hands ?.' (3) As we have seen, the MSS. are so markedly different from one another that it is difficult to suppose that they spring from one official original 3. (4) We shall see that the varied and picturesque nature of their contents forcibly suggest that they owe their origin to the enterprise of private members of the legal profession. Even the judges come in for their share of criticism ; and in one early MS. there are notes of conversations between the writer and his friends or pupils 4. We naturally think of those associations of students living together in hostels from which sprang the Inns of Court. (5) Further probability is given to this view by the fact that we see a most remarkable contempt for the non-scientific detail of litigation : especially for proper names. These very often are so violently perverted that we seem to have before us much rather the work of a man who jotted down mere initials in court, and afterwards tried to expand them, than the work of an official who had the faithful plea rolls under his

The divergent versions of the same case which the manuscripts present to us make it probable that their authors were men writing for themselves, who not only simplified facts, but also expanded arguments, and even invented both facts and arguments 6. It is useful perhaps to remember that Plowden-one of the earliest of our modern reporters-called his reports commentaries. (6) At the end of Edward I's reign there was no up-to-date textbook extant embodying the results of Edward I's legislation. The only ways in which the student or the practitioner could learn modern law was by attending court, taking or borrowing notes, and discussion. For these reasons the weight of evidence is all against the old belief

eye 5.'

1 Y. B. 1, 2 Ed. II (S. S.), xi-xiv.

? Ibid. xii. Mr. Pike, The Green Bag, xii. 535, says, “No Year Books or copies of them have been found among the records of any of the courts. Some of the manuscripts are still in private hands; and those which are in public libraries can usually be traced to a particular donor or vendor.'

9 Above, p. 268. 4 Y. B. 2, 3 Ed. II (S. S.), xv, xvi.

5 Y. B. 1, 2 Ed. II (S. S.), xiii. * Y. B. 3 Ed. II (S. S.), lxxii-xciii for specimens of the reporter's work compared with the record. A good instance of divergent reports will be found in Y. B. 3 Ed. II (S. S.), cases 21 A & B, pp. 186-8. Perhaps a little polish was expected ; R. Farewell and J. Dyer tell us, in their dedication of Dyer's reports to the students of the law, that the Chief Justice 'wanted time and leisure to polish and beautifie the said cases with more large arguments which he had a full purpose to have done.'

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in the official origin of the Year Books. The earliest of them, Professor Maitland thinks, are students' notebooks 1.'

In course of time the system of reporting gradually developed to meet the obvious needs of a legal profession engaged in administering a system of law, the principles of which depended almost entirely upon the practice of the Court. Just as books of precedents of writs and pleadings were necessary in order that the lawyer might present his case in proper form to the Court, so reports of decided cases were necessary if he was to know the principles which the Court would apply to decide the case. Indeed it is probable that it was only gradually that these books of precedents were differentiated from the law report? The book of precedents occasionally borrows from the Year Book 3; and the Year Book sometimes gives us extracts from the pleadings, and thus serves the purpose of a book of precedents. The two things came, however, to be entirely distinct. Broadly speaking, the book of precedents deals with the formal and the procedural side of legal practice, while the Year Book deals chiefly with the application of the principles which underlie, not only the procedural rules, but also the rules of substantive law. Thus for an intelligent understanding, an intelligent application of the precedents, the reports in the Year Books were essential ; and perhaps to many practitioners this consideration was a greater incentive to the study of the Year Books than the fact that it was only through them that a knowledge of the principles of the law could be attained. * The spirit of the earliest Year Books,' says Professor Maitland, 'will hardly be caught unless we perceive that instruction for pleaders rather than the authoritative fixation of points of substantive law was the primary object of the reporters 4.' But though the needs of the pleader may have been the paramount consideration in the minds of the earliest reporters, though such needs always continued to be an important consideration, it had been clear, since the days of Bracton, that without a knowledge of the doings of the Courts there could be no knowledge of English law. His treatise could not have been written if he had not had access to such information through the records which he had retained for a period 5. But records were valuable things. By a lucky chance perhaps a lawyer might get access to a few of them ; but neither the mere apprentice, nor even the serjeant, could be sure of getting the constant access to a series of such documents wbich would be necessary if they were to be used for purposes of instruction or as aids to practice. Moreover much pleading took place, and much argument thereon, which never appeared on the roll; and this was often as interesting to lawyers as the matters which appeared there?. The legal profession was obliged to supply its own peculiar wants for itself; and thus the report of the doings of the Court made by lawyers for lawyers arose.

1 Y. B. 3 Ed. II (S. S.), xii.
? Y. B. 2, 3 Ed. ÎI (S. S.), xiv ; 3 Ed. II (S. S.), xiv.

3 Novae Narrationes, ff. 71-73 b; and see an extract from the Brevia Placitata cited Y. B. 2, 3 Ed. II (S. S.), xiv, n. 1. 4 Y. B. 1, 2 Ed. II (S. S.), xiv.

6 Bracton's Note Book, i. 25. 6 Professor Maitland (Y. B. 3 Ed. II (S. S.), xxi) says that one of the MSS. of Edward II's Y. BB. contains many records with a precise reference to the roll; Mr. Pike says that one MS. of the Y. BB. (Add. MS., no. 16560, in the British Above, p. 272, n. 1; cp. Y. B. 3 Ed. II (S. S.), Ixix, lxx. ? Y. B. 1, 2 Ed. II (8. S.), xv.

We cannot give the exact date when to some lawyer 'the happy thought'? first came of noting down the proceedings of the Court. The earliest printed Year Book in the Rolls Series is of the year 1292; but there are, as we have seen, earlier manuscripts 3. Their writers, Professor Maitland thinks, are persons who are noting down the latest points for the use of themselves or their friends. They give no dates. Often they do not arrange their matter chronologically. Rather they distribute it under suitable heads after the manner of the writers of the later printed Abridgements. Thus, “it is only by degrees that the oldest law reports become “ Year Books,” and even when the purely chronological scheme has obtained the mastery, we may see that for a while the men who write the manuscripts or have the manuscripts written for them are by no means very careful about assigning the cases to the proper years and terms4.' In later times the chronological scheme' does obtain the mastery. No doubt as the years went on reporting became a more regular pursuit. Still it was an open pursuit 6. The Books of Assizes are reports in a style very different from that of the other Year Books of Edward III's reign. They are more concise than the Year Books usually are, giving rather the gist of the argument and the decision than a report of the actual proceedings. The Longo Quinto represents a more elaborate effort of reporting than had yet been seen. Often it seems to be more impersonal, and to give the gist of several reports rather than the actual account of the eye-witness. No doubt, too, the reporters became more skilful, more professional as time went on; they allowed themselves fewer scattered notes, fewer personal details. The report of the case is the main thing; and the report grows fuller. Perhaps it may be allowable to conjecture Museum) for the first 120 folios contains copies of records ; the rest of the 323 folios of which the MS. consists is taken up by reports, Y. B. 11, 12 Ed. III (R. S.), xv; sometimes what look like copies of records appear in the Y. BB., e.g. 11, 12 Ed. III (R. S.), 210, 13, 14 Ed. III, 306, 17 Ed. III, 324, Longo Quinto, pp. 20, 97, 98, 4 Ed. IV, Mich. pl. 25-a precedent of a recognizance ; perhaps there was sometimes an attempt to combine the two sources of information.

3 Above, p. 267. * Y. B. 2, 3 Ed. II (S. S.), xi ; and cp. Y. B. 30, 31 Ed. I (R. S.), 1. $ Y. B. 14, 15 Ed. III (R. S.), xv.

that, with the growing organization of the legal profession, there grew up some sort of organized system of reporting. With the more frequent citation of cases in court, and the greater authority attached to them, the need for reports grew more pressing. We really have no positive evidence at all as to the conditions under which the Year Book was published to the profession. No doubt, as in later times, there was extensive borrowing, and hasty copying of borrowed materials as and when they could be got? It is, however, difficult to suppose that a profession so well organized as that of the law did not devise or encourage some sort of informal organization for the production of reports. It is perhaps more than a coincidence that the serjeant's chief practice was in the Common Bench, and that the greater number of cases reported in the Year Books are common pleas. If there was some sort of organization for the production of reports, and if the legal profession exercised some control over it, we can easily see how the tale of their official origin arose. Such a tale would be the more readily believed by an age which had had time to forget the conditions which had prevailed before the introduction of printing. We sometimes speak of 'the Law Reports' as official; but the historian of our age will search the national accounts in vain for information as to the sums paid to the reporters.

A reliance on cases was, as we have said, as old as Bracton; and we can see from the early Year Books that a considered decision was regarded as laying down a general rule for the future. The judgment to be given by you,' said Herle in argument in 1304, will be hereafter an authority in every quare non admisit in England 2: This does not of course mean that all the cases to be found in the lawyer's note books were regarded as authoritative 3. Still

are cited even in the early Year Books *; and in Edward III's reign we see a more frequent citation of and reliance upon cases.

1 Y. B. 20, 21 Ed. I (R. S.), xviii, it is said that the MS. was clearly written from dictation, and that the scribe did not understand what he was writing ; see Y. B. 13, 14 Ed. III (R. S.), xxi for an account of a MS, in which Y. BB. of Ed. II have got in among Y. BB. of Ed. III ; and cp. Plowden's Rep. Pref. for the manner in which his reports were borrowed, and so incorrectly copied that he resolved to publish them himself.

· Y. B. 32, 33 Ed. I (R. S.), 32.

* Y. B. 3 Ed. II (S. S.), x, A little acquaintance with the manuscripts that we have been transcribing would be enough to show that the justices could not have treated them in the way in which a modern judge can treat a modern law report. Those manuscripts differ in every conceivable way. Every citation would begin a new dispute.'

* Y. B. 20, 21 Ed. I (R. S.), 358 (not followed), 438 (distinguished); 21, 22 Ed. I (R. S.), 280, 340 (authenticity questioned), 242, 406; 30, 31 Ed. I (R. S.) 178 ; 32, 33 Ed. I (R. S.), 28, 145, 300 ; 33-35 Ed. I (R. S.), 24; 3 Ed. II (S. S.), 34, 60, 199. Sometimes the citation of cases by the judges takes the form of reminiscences, cp. Y. B. 16 Ed. III (R. S.), ii. 6, “When you and I were apprentices,' said Sharshulle, “and Sir W. de Herle and Sir J. Stonore were serjeants, you saw Sir J. como to the bar,' &c.

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In Henry VI and Edward IV's reigns, if we make allowance for the differences between the manuscripts and the printed book, and the differences between the Year Book and the modern report, we see cases cited and distinguished much in the same way as they are cited and distinguished in modern times. This would seem to show that the later Year Books are something very much more than students' notebooks. Just as the voluntary associations of students for the purposes of legal education won their way to the position of the Honourable Societies of the Inns of Court, so these students' notebooks became those Reports which Burke called the sure foundation of English law, and the sure hold of the lives and property of all Englishmen.

The introduction of printing directly affected the accustomed modes of publishing the reports. Men would no longer pay large sums to obtain a MS. or to get the power to copy it, when they could buy a printed report, or an abridgement of the reports. A severe shock was therefore given to the production of the Year Books upon the old lines ; and the severity of the shock was aggravated by the fact that the same extensive changes in law and practice which were diminishing the importance of the Register of Writs were rendering many of the old cases obsolete. Material changes in the law assisted the mechanical change in the mode of production. The Year Books, as we have seen, ceased to appear in Henry VIII's

, reign. Perhaps some sanguine men considered that there were reports enough? But it soon became apparent that the professors and practitioners of a growing system of law, developed by the means of decided cases, could not dispense with reports. Dyer ? and Plowden begin the long list of modern reports.

For many years to come the printed Year Books were absolutely necessary to all students of the law; and the printed Abridgements of the Year Books written by Statham, Fitzherbert, and Broke were useful indices to the Year Books themselves, and gradually became the only authorities for the reigns and years which did not get into print 3. Just as the Year Books are the best indices to the records, so the Abridgements are our only index and guide to the Year Books.

We must now turn to the characteristics of the Year Books.

There are many mediaeval records of various kinds which record contemporary events. There are no other mediaeval records except

1 Co. Rep. iii, Pref.

* There are a few cases in Dyer from the 4th, 6th, 19th, and 24th years of Henry VIII. His reports therefore just overlap the latest Year Books.' The style of the later Y. BB. is very similar to the style in which these earlier cases in Dyer are reported.

3 Y. B. 13, 14 Ed. III (R. S.).

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