The Taussig Collection: William Lambarde

Trained at Lincoln’s Inn, William Lambarde (1536–1601) showed early ability as an antiquarian and became a leading publisher of books on English law. He wrote his Eirenarcha, or Of the Office of the Iustices of Peace (1582), while serving, from 1579, as a Justice of the Peace in Kent. It became one of the most authoritative justice of the peace manuals in the period, being reprinted twelve times before 1620. As a genre, the manuals shed important light on the local administration of law in England and the growing reach of royal law enforcement. Lambarde’s guide describes in detail the duties of the office and the law a justice administers, with frequent reference to statutes and to Fitzherbert’s earlier, influential work on the subject, among others. The Library’s copy, acquired from the Taussig Collection, is a rare first edition.   

As a scholar interested in the history of English law, Lambarde became associated with the circle of Archbishop of Canterbury and leading antiquarian Matthew Parker. Lambarde’s greatest work on legal history, the Archeion, or, A Discourse upon the High Court of Justice in England (1635), traces English common law and government to an early Anglo-Saxon past, as part of an appeal to institutional continuity which found support among antiquarians and a more popular, lawyerly audience. Lambarde’s labors on the judicial circuit and as a scholar eventually led to advancement. At the end of his life, after working in chancery under his friend Sir Thomas Egerton, he was appointed keeper of the records in the Tower of London.

From the Taussig collection the Library has acquired twelve editions of Lambarde’s works.

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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