LITTLETON, Sir THOMAS. Lyttilton Tenures truely tranlsated into Englyshe. London: Thomas Berthelet, 1538. 8vo, 138 x 92 mm. (5 7/16 x 3¾ in.), nineteenth-century limp vellum over layered paper liners of 19th-century ms. waste, earlier flyleaves preserved, original stabholes throughout, rubbed, backstrip torn, lacking final blank leaf, faint marginal dampstain throughout penetrating text block of last 25 leaves, edges of first 3 leaves slightly softened and frayed, fol. S6 torn at top catching headlines and 2 words of text on verso, a few other minor marginal tears, occasional slight spotting, slight worming to gutter margin at end. First (dated) octavo edition. Collation: A-V8 X4. 163 (of 164) leaves, without X4 blank, foliated. Title within woodcut border dated 1534 (McKerrow & Ferguson 30), black letter, shoulder notes mostly in black letter, running heads in roman, one 8-line criblé initial and one 9-line historiated woodcut initial. STC 15761.
First dated octavo edition of the English translation of Littleton's Tenures, preceded only by two folio editions printed in the 1520s, of which a total of one fragment and one copy are known (both in the British Library). STC lists 4 copies of the present edition. Two undated editions printed by Robert Redman are tentatively dated 1538 and 1539 by the STC, recording two copies of the first and a single copy of the second (of this latter edition a second copy surfaced at Christie's London on 24 May 1989, lot 183). The present copy is thus the EARLIEST OBTAINABLE DATED COPY OF THE ENGLISH VERSION OF LITTLETON'S FAMOUS AND FREQUENTLY REPRINTED LEGAL TREATISE (STC lists 63 editions in all). "Written primarily for the instruction of his son Richard... [the Tenures] early attained the rank of authority... Littleton's work was substantially original, and presented in an easy and... agreeable style, and within moderate compass, a full and complete account of the several estates and tenures then known to English law with their peculiar incidents. Perhaps no legal treatise ever combined so much of the substance with so little of the show of learning... Littleton's text with Coke's comment [first published in 1628] long remained the principal authority on English real property law" (DNB).
Provenance: Contemporary marginalia in a neat English hand, evidence of effaced signature below colophon possibly in the same hand; other traces of deleted inscriptions at head of title and first text leaf -- Dominick Frank, 1705, signatures on early flyleaves -- Ed. Durell(?), Recteur de St. Sauveur, 1829, inscription on later front flyleaf.