BLACKSTONE, Sir William (1723-1780). Commentaries on the Laws of England. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1765-1769.
4 volumes, 4 (272 x 208mm). 2 engraved tables in vol.II (1 folding). (Occasional light spotting.) Contemporary speckled calf, spine and edges of boards gilt, spine in six compartments with raised bands, the second with red morocco lettering-piece, the third with black morocco lettering-piece (joints weak, spines slightly chipped at head and foot, light rubbing to corners). Provenance: George Fludyer (signatures, second son of Sir Samuel Fludyer, married Lady Mary Fane [4th daughter of John, 9th Earl of Westmorland], died 1837).
A FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION of 'the extreme example of justification of an existing state of affairs by virtue of its history' (PMM p.128). Blackstones's Commentaries 'were the product of his earlier lectures [at Oxford]: as a digest of historical growth and a co-ordination of the cumulative precedents of case-law, it is a miracle of organization, judgement, and common sense; it is the nearest thing to a constitution of England. Its wider importance was immediately recognized ... Translated into French, German, Italian, and Russian, it became the textbook of liberty and justice all over the world.' (N. Barker: The Oxford University Press and the Spread of Learning, Oxford: 1978 p.34).
Blackstone was born in 1723 'and early orphaned, he was educated at Charterhouse and Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1744 he became a fellow of All Souls and in 1746 he was called to the bar as a member of the Middle Temple. From then on he divided his time between college and university business and practice at the bar. He was notably successful as a steward of his college and in the reforms he initiated at the Clarendon Press. His legal practice was less successful, although in 1749 he became recorder of Wallingford... In 1752 he retired from the bar to devote himself to academic life; his lectures attracted considerable attention, and in 1758, as Vinerian Professor, he delivered the lecture which was afterwards prefixed to the Commentaries. They were an immediate and lasting success... Their success brought Blackstone back to legal practice in London. He became a Member of Parliament... He declined the place of Solicitor General in 1770, but was soon promoted to the bench, and thence to a seat in the Court of Common Pleas. He died in 1770' (PMM p.128). The present work is his life's greatest achievement. In a style that is 'lucid and graceful' (idem) he explained the complexities of English law to the ordinary Englishman for the first time, he 'did for the English what the imperial publication of Roman law... did for the people of Rome' (idem). N.Barker. op. cit. 142; Grolier 105; Rothschild 407-408; PMM 212. (4)