The Taussig Collection: Commercial Law

The Law of Trade, or, A Digest of the Law Concerning Trade, Commerce, and Manufactures (London,

From the Taussig collection the library has acquired a number of rare volumes dealing with commercial law. Most date to the eighteenth century, and many offer insights into the practices of local English merchants and the statutory and case law which regulated them. The volume, Points in Law and Equity (London, 1792), aims to aid merchants who lacked “information as to many of the points of law” concerning the “immense” volume of commerce that passed daily throughout England. Organized as a digest with alphabetically-arranged precepts excerpted from statutes and case reports, it advises that promissory notes, where money is knowingly lent for the sake of gambling, are void (37); or that a factor (or commercial employee) to whom a balance is due, has a lien on the goods of the owner in the employee’s possession (96). A contemporary work, The Law of Trade, or A Digest of the Law, gives a fuller summary of important case law on legal questions relating to merchants and trade. Our volume has no place or date—though it was published probably around 1800—and has not been located in other libraries.      

Several of the books on commerce and merchant law are more international in scope. The Lex Mercatoria Rediviva, or the Merchant’s Directory (London, 1751?), deals with aspects of trade familiar since the medieval period, including bills of exchange and maritime insurance, but also treats complex contemporary cases and guides merchants through the intricacies of trade in foreign countries. The work is a terrific resource for studying the laws and customs in force in European countries in the mid-eighteenth century, and a good source for the products and economies merchants navigated as they traveled between ports and inland markets.

The Taussig acquisitions were funded in large part by a generous grant from Yale Law School’s Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.

– RYAN GREENWOOD, Rare Book Fellow   

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