Annotated by William Blackstone: A Donation to Yale Law Library

manuscript notes on a printed book

Manuscript notes by William Blackstone in a copy of Geoffrey Gilbert, A Treatise of Tenures in Two Parts (1730), p. 1.  A recent donation to the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School

This is admirably well performed in lord chief baron Gilbert’s excellent treatise of evidence; a work which it is impossible to abstract or abridge, without losing some beauty and destroying the chain of the whole; and which hath lately been engrafted into that learned and useful work, the introduction to the law of nisi prisi. 4to. 1767.
William Blackstone, Commentaries, III, 367

The Lillian Goldman Law Library is pleased to announce the addition to its rare book and manuscript collection of a copy of Geoffrey Gilbert’s A Treatise of Tenures in Two Parts (1730), extensively annotated by William Blackstone.  This is the second copy of a work by Gilbert annotated by Blackstone held by the Yale Law Library: the Library also holds a copy of Gilbert’s An Historical View of the Court of Exchequer (1738), with Blackstone’s manuscript notes. 

Blackstone keenly admired Gilbert, praising his “excellent treatise of evidence,” which he described as a “work which it is impossible to abstract or abridge, without losing some beauty and destroying the chain of the whole.” 

This donation opens the rare and exciting scholarly opportunity to examine Blackstone as a reader, and as a reader of two works by an author whom he admired.   The Lillian Goldman Law Library holds the world’s most extensive collections of Blackstone editions and related publications. This includes many works documenting how Blackstone’s readers engaged with his works, both his contemporaries and subsequent generations of readers, students, and scholars.  The collection holds many manuscript notes by students, copies of his lectures, and readers noting their thoughts in the margins of contemporary and later editions of his work.   The addition of a second work documenting Blackstone as a reader opens up rare and exciting possibilities for scholarship in the collections. 

The Lillian Goldman Law Library would like to express its gratitude to John B. Morley for his generous donation of this work to the collections.

Rare Books

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